Preview: Australia v USA

Date published: September 22 2011

Australia have a chance to get their RWC campaign back on track when they face USA at the Wellington Regional Stadium on Friday.

Australia have a chance to get their World Cup campaign back on track when they face USA at the Wellington Regional Stadium on Friday.

After their shock 15-6 defeat to Ireland in Auckland on Saturday, the Wallabies should get the better of their less-fancied opponents and anything less than a huge winning margin will not satisfy their supporters.

Scrum-half Will Genia leads the Tri-Nations champions in the absence of regular captain James Horwill, who is being rested for the encounter.

Despite losing their last match, Australia are still among the favourites to win the tournament and they should run rampant in this encounter.

An area of concern for Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is his side's performance in the scrums, after they took a battering in the set-phase against Ireland.

Tighthead prop Ben Alexander, in particular, will have a point to prove after his poor showing against Ireland's Cian Healy.

If it's any consolation for the Wallabies, it must also be remembered that Ireland also destroyed USA in the scrums when they beat them 22-10 in New Plymouth on September 11.

Quade Cooper also gets a chance to redeem himself after his below par performance in Auckland and along with Genia, will once again pull the strings on attack for the Wallabies.

The defeat against Ireland has given opportunities to some of Australia's second-stringers to stake a claim in the starting line-up for the knock-out stages.

And the likes of Drew Mitchell, James Slipper and Scott Higginbotham will probably fancy their chances of achieving that goal if they put in strong performances in this clash.

Another player to keep an eye on is number eight Wycliff Palu who will start his first match for the Wallabies since 2009. He has had a bad run with injuries which has seen him having surgery to his knee and shoulder, a hamstring tear and an arthroscope on the same knee.

However, a fully fit Palu is one of the most fearsome sights in the game and Deans will be hoping the hard-running back-rower makes an impact in this match.

USA coach Eddie O'Sullivan is a shrewd tactician, who has coached Ireland at previous World Cups. And after making fourteen changes to his run-on side after their win over Russia, one can't help but wonder if he is sacrificing this match with the hope of beating Italy in their final pool match.

Australian-born scrum-half Tim Usasz will captain the team for the first time, taking over from regular skipper and openside flanker Todd Clever.

Ones to watch:

For Australia: Quade Cooper has come in for plenty of criticism after the defeat to Ireland. He is a player who thrives on confidence and this clash against a second-string USA side should see him returning to his best form. Against one of the less-fancied sides, expect the New Zealand-born pivot to put his full bag of tricks on display.

For USA: With so many of their first-choice players missing, it's difficult to single out anyone. However, number eight JJ Gagiano is a mobile back rower who made his mark for the Eagles' Sevens team and for the Eastern Province Kings in the First Division of South Africa's Currie Cup competition.

Head-to-head: The battle between the scrum-halves should be an intriguing one as both Will Genia and Tim Usasz will also be captaining their sides. Heading into the tournament Genia was regarded by many experts as the world's best scrum-half and it will be interesting to see how he handles the added responsibility of captaincy and whether it has any impact on his game. Adding spice to the duel is the fact that Usasz was born in Brisbane and he played club rugby with some of the Wallabies.

Previous results:

1999: Australia won 55-19 in Limerick
1990: Australia won 67-9 in Brisbane
1987: Australia won 47-12 in Brisbane
1983: Australia won 49-3 in Sydney

Prediction: Expect a backlash from the Wallabies after their nightmare result against Ireland. This will be a one-sided affair with Australia giving a clinical display from start to finish. USA have not helped their cause by fielding an under-strength side. Australia by 50 points.

The teams:

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley Cooper, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Robert Horne, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper 9 Will Genia (c), 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Ben McCalman 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Dan Vickerman, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Pat McCabe.

USA: 15 Blaine Scully, 14 Colin Hawley, 13 Tai Enosa, 12 Junior Sifa, 11 Kevin Swiryn, 10 Nese Malifa, 9 Tim Usasz (c), 8 JJ Gagiano, 7 Pat Danahy, 6 Inaki Basauri, 5 Hayden Smith, 4 Scott LaValla, 3 Eric Fry, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Shawn Pittman.
Replacements: 16 Brian McClenahan, 17 Matekitonga Moeakiola, 18 Louis Stanfill, 19 Nic Johnson, 20 Mike Petri, 21 Roland Suniula, 22 Chris Wyles.

Date: Friday, September 23
Venue: Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 20.30 (08.30 GMT)
Weather: Sunny with light winds. Day time high:13°C
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Television match official: Tim Hayes (Wales)

By David Skippers