Wallabies Spring Simmons Surprise For Italy Test

by
Reuters
Australia coach Ewen McKenzie sprang a surprise on Thursday, naming the towering Rob Simmons at blindside flanker for the first time for the Wallabies' test against Italy in Turin on Saturday.

Australian Wallabies head coach Ewen McKenzie is silhouetted as he catches a ball during his team's captain's run in Sydney

Australia coach Ewen McKenzie sprang a surprise on Thursday, naming the towering Rob Simmons at blindside flanker for the first time for the Wallabies' test against Italy in Turin on Saturday.

The 24-year-old replaces the injured Scott Fardy in the only change to the starting side that lost to England 20-13 last week.

Fardy suffered concussion while tackling English fullback Mike Brown early in the second half but McKenzie expects him to be fit for next week's test against Ireland in Dublin.

With James Horwill and Sitaleki Timani in the second row and Simmons in the backrow, McKenzie's move is aimed at nullifying the powerful Italian pack.

"We've looked at Italy and we want to take them on at what they're good at," McKenzie was quoted as saying by Australian media.

"It's a different focus. Italy are one of the most dominant tackling teams but they're not necessarily hard over the ball.

"They will try to take us on in the set piece. You have to deal with where the ball is first, not where it might be."

Simmons, a towering two-metre Queenslander, returns after a knee injury kept him out of the Twickenham defeat and McKenzie was confident he would make up for the loss of Fardy.

"Statistically Simmo is in our top two in terms of defence and getting around the field and he's probably the second most athletic guy in the forward pack," McKenzie said.

The coach also rang in three changes on the bench drafting in back-rowers Dave Dennis and Liam Gill while Joe Tomane replaced Bernard Foley