Australia and Samoa clash for the fifth time in their history on Sunday, with the Wallabies looking to kick on from the Reds' success.
Australia and Samoa clash for the fifth time in their history on Sunday, with the Wallabies looking to kick on from the Super Rugby success of the Reds.
Quite what the Queensland outfit's win has, and can, do for this side remains unclear but it surely cannot hurt their cause going into the Tri-Nations.
Add to their arsenal the return of skipper Rocky Elsom following a long bout of injury and suddenly things are looking rather peachy.
Webb Ellis champions on October 23 anyone?
Their route to the final is one that lends itself to such a possibility, as again I'll bring up that they miss New Zealand and South Africa – that is if all things pan out as expected. However, news on Wednesday of a certain prop going down at training after 'hearing a click' in his knee is a blow.
The magnitude of losing Benn Robinson for what looks like nine months cannot be downplayed, while the irony of his injury coming a day after he spoke of their improved scrummaging arguably hurts Australians more. His starting jersey for the World Cup is set to be taken by either Ben Daley or Sekope Kepu.
Daley does not get a run this weekend due to his Reds exploits and that goes for Saia and Anthony Faingaa, James Horwill, Radike Samo, Will Genia, Quade Cooper and Rod Davies. The only 2011 Super Rugby winners set to be on the field are wing Digby Ioane, flanker Scott Higginbotham and hooker James Hanson.
“We assessed all of the Queensland guys when they joined us on Monday night and decided this was the best course for us. They have had a big workload already this year. Given that our schedule is so congested, with five Test matches in seven weeks, we felt that now was realistically the only opportunity we had to give them a break,” revealed Deans.
Barring the prop dilemma – which also could be covered by currently injured James Slipper starting at 3 and Ben Alexander shifting to 1 – Australia finally seem to have the luxury of strength in-depth in every position. Gone are the days of very little back-up in the backs too.
New faces are making that happen and credit should go to the way of the Rebels for that, who have given a springboard to scrum-half Nick Phipps. He starts while team-mate Mark Gerrard returns for his first Test since facing Japan at World Cup 2007. Both deserve a run.
Another player in line for his first Australia start is Sitaleki Timani, who will become the second member of his family to play Test rugby this year after his elder brother Sione already represented Tonga in the Pacific Nations Cup. He locks in with Nathan Sharpe.
Meanwhile, there will be a few familiar faces in the opposition line-up for Deans to take a watchful eye over as five played under him during his coaching spell at the Crusaders.
But will they be a match for the golds? Despite all their star names, it would be naive to think the thrown-together Wallabies will be smooth in their precision. Also a full-strength Samoan XV will put the frighteners up them at times – take note upcoming World Cup Pool rivals.
“You only have to look at Samoa's results on last year's Spring tour where they drew with Scotland and ran both Ireland and England close to see how competitive they will be,” said Deans, with Samoa having finished the recent Pacific Nations Cup in third position.
However, that poor finish can be put down somewhat to half of their team – including the likes of Seilala Mapusua, Alesana Tuilagi, Sailosi Tagicakibau, and Kahn Fotuali'i – having arrived in Sydney last Sunday. That shows they'll certainly not roll over at ANZ Stadium.
Ones to watch:
For Australia: With scrum-half Luke Burgess moving to Toulouse following the World Cup, Nick Phipps has a real chance to bed himself down in this Wallabies squad with a good performance in Sydney on Sunday. Phipps has impressed throughout Super Rugby 2011 for the Rebels, using his Sevens skills to good effect in the XV-man game. Also keep an eye out for Pat McCabe in midfield and dancer Digby Ioane, who should get amongst the tries.
For Samoa: Any rugby league fans out there may remember Maurie Fa'asavalu when he traded union for St Helens following the 2003 World Cup. Now back in the XV-man game with Harlequins, the dynamic forward will relish going up against this Wallaby back-row. There is also interest at full-back where the reliable Paul Williams dons fifteen. He will look to hit the line well and unleash wings Sailosi Tagicakibau and Alesana Tuilagi.
Head-to-head: It will be a Rebel against a Crusader on Sunday as Nick Phipps and Kahn Fotuali'i collide. These two like to keep games up to a good pace which is great news for those braving the early start on this side of the world. Stephen Moore against Mo Schwalger and then Ti'i Paulo also excites, with hooker being a strong area for the Samoans. Like Clermont star Paulo, Census Johnston can only make the bench.
Prediction: I expect this to be fairly close until about the half-hour mark. Australia by 26!
Australia: 15 Mark Gerrard, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Rocky Elsom (c), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Dan Vickerman, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Will Genia, 22 Kurtley Beale.
Samoa: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 13 George Pisi, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 George Stowers, 7 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 6 Taisina Tuifu'a, 5 Daniel Leo, 4 Kane Thompson, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Mahonri Schwalger (c), 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Census Johnston, 18 Filipo Lavea Levi, 19 Manaia Salavea, 20 Brenton Helleur, 21 Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu, 22 James So'oialo.
Date: Sunday, July 17
Kick-off: 14:00 (04:00 GMT, 05:00 BST)
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Keith Brown (New Zealand), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
By Adam Kyriacou