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Preview: Australia v Russia

29th September 2011 18:27

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Australia v russia preview

Back row chargers: David Pocock and Victor Gresev

Australia will look to continue where they left off against USA when they face Russia in their final World Cup Pool C clash in Nelson on Saturday.

The Wallabies ran in 11 tries in their 67-5 rout of the hapless Eagles and they should have another easy assignment against one of the minnows of the competition.

Despite their dominant performance against USA, Australia's win proved costly as they suffered injuries to key players and coach Robbie Deans will not want a repeat against the Russians.

Back-rower Wycliff Palu has already been forced to return home with a hamstring injury while Rob Horne (fractured cheekbone), Anthony Faingaa (concussion), Pat McCabe (dislocated shoulder) and Kurtley Beale (hamstring strain) are also unavailable for selection for this clash, as well as Digby Ioane (fractured thumb) who was injured in their opening match against Italy.

However, Deans has still selected a formidable side, who will have too much firepower in all facets of play for the Russians.

Because several of the Wallaby casualties are back-line players, Deans has been forced to select number eight Radike Samo on the wing and it will be interesting to see how the 35-year-old adapts to his new position.

Another player who will be closely monitored is blindside flanker Scott Higginbotham, who starts his first match at the World Cup and will be keen to make an impression on Deans.

He has been struggling with a back injury but gets a chance to stake his claim for the first-choice Wallabies XV. Higginbotham is competing with Rocky Elsom for a spot on the side of the scrum and a big performance by the Reds stalwart could relegate the former captain to the bench.

Despite being out of their depth at the World Cup, Russia have not disgrace themselves at their debut tournament.

After losing 13-6 to USA in their opener, they suffered heavy defeats to Italy (53-17) and Ireland (62-12) but in both those matches their back-line scored some impressive tries.

Russian coach Nikolay Nerush has made six changes to his starting line-up for this clash.

The biggest boost is the return of hooker and captain Vladislav Korshunov, who is back in the starting line-up after suffering a leg injury in their 53-17 defeat to Italy.

Korshunov replaces Valery Tsnobiladze, who received a three-match suspension after headbutting Ireland flanker Sean O'Brien in Russia's 62-12 defeat.

The skipper said his side will not take a backward step against the Wallabies.

"We need to feel free when we play Australia, spend more time in attack with no (inferiority) complex in front of the Wallabies," said Korshunov.

"Having about 10 attacks in each of the previous two games we have scored two or three tries. When the ball belongs to us we should not give it back easily," he added.

Players to watch:

For Australia: After his much publicised migraine problems, which kept him on the sidelines for months, Berrick Barnes replaced Horne against the USA and gave a composed performance at fly-half while Quade Cooper slotted in at full-back. For this clash Barnes will play at inside centre and it's important for him to gel with Cooper if the Wallabies want to win a potential quarter-final against South Africa.

For Russia: Number eight Victor Gresev has come to the fore with some solid performances in Russia's previous matches. He is a strong ball carrier who likes the physical aspect of the game and who works tirelessly in the tight loose. Gresev was a replacement for Russia's opener against USA but after solid showings against Italy and Ireland he has cemented his place in the starting line-up.

Head-to-head: Russian lock Adam Byrnes is up against Wallabies captain James Horwill and veteran second rower Nathan Sharpe in what is potentially an explosive battle. Byrnes, who qualifies for Russia through his mother, plays for the Melbourne Rebels and has a reputation in Australian rugby as an aggressive player, so don't expect him to stand back to his more illustrious opponents.

Previous results:

This will the first international match between these two countries.

Prediction: Australia will win, it's simply a question of by what margin. Expect the Wallabies to dominate all facets of play and to ring the changes early in the second half to avoid further injuries. Australia by between 50 and 60 points.

The teams:

Australia: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Radike Samo, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 James Horwill (captain), 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota Nau, 17 Saia Fainga'a, 18 Salesi Ma'afu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Rocky Elsom, 21 Will Genia, 22 Nick Phipps.

Russia: 15 Vasily Artemyev, 14 Denis Simplikevich, 13 Andrey Kuzin, 12 Alexey Makovetskiy, 11 Vladimir Ostroushko, 10 Yury Kushnarev, 9 Alexander Yanyushkin, 8 Victor Gresev, 7 Vyacheslav Grachev, 6 Artem Fatakhov, 5 Adam Byrnes, 4 Alexander Voytov, 3 Ivan Prishchepenko, 2 Vladislav Korshunov (c), 1 Sergey Popov.
Replacements: 16 Evgeny Matveev, 17 Vladimir Botvinnikov, 18 Alexey Travkin, 19 Andrey Garbuzov, 20 Alexander Shakirov, 21 Konstantin Rachkov, 22 Mikhail Babaev.

Date: Saturday, October 1
Venue: Trafalgar Park, Nelson
Kick-off 15:30 (2:30 GMT)
Weather: Rain is expected with a northerly wind blowing. Day time high: 15C
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa).

By David Skippers