Ahead of the second Test, Dave Rennie said the six injuries suffered in the space would be a good test for their depth.
Now, off the back of another four injuries suffered in their 25-17 loss to England, Rennie spent Sunday considering the best way forward ahead of Saturday’s third Test decider in Sydney.
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New fullback Jordan Petaia (concussion), utility back Izaia Perese (patella), Cadeyrn Neville (MCL) and Scott Sio (arm) were the four casualties out of the eight-point loss, where the Wallabies were bullied early before a rousing a second half comeback.
Nonetheless, Rennie was once again staying optimistic ahead of one of the most anticipated week’s in Australian rugby, where Saturday’s third Test could prove to be the final three-match series if World Rugby gets its way for a global nations championship.
“It’s a decider and you’re playing for your country. We’ve got depth and it’s going to be tested next week,” Rennie said.
His counterpart Eddie Jones, however, wasn’t feeling an ounce of sympathy for Rennie’s Wallabies.
“All we’re worried about is ourselves,” Jones said.
“I don’t read the papers because they never say anything, mate.
“Do you report injuries? You do. I’ll get my mum to have a look. I’m going to ring her up right now and say, ‘Mum, can you look at the injuries for me?’
“And if they’ve got a lot of injuries I’ll give you a call and tell you that I’m worried about them.”
Most pressing is the shortage of Test ready second-row and fullback options, with Neville suffering his MCL injury in the second half.
Neville’s blow comes off the back of Darcy Swain’s two-match suspension and Jed Holloway’s pre-series injury.
Who Rennie turns to will be fascinating because the Wallabies were smashed in the forwards.
Matt Philip is one of the best in the lineout, but he doesn’t pack a punch like most world class second-rowers.
He was joined in the second half by Nick Frost and while the Brumbies lock is one for the future, the 22-year-old made his debut during the defeat.
With no other second-rowers to turn to, Rennie could send a SOS to Ryan Smith who is raw but hard and has shown he has the physicality to match it with international opposition after two matches for Australia A.
2019 World Cup lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, meanwhile, is playing club rugby in Brisbane after being turned away by Brad Thorn at the Queensland Reds after signing with Northampton Saints.
Salakaia-Loto is based in Brisbane and he could join the Wallabies on Sunday should he be called up.
Rennie’s other options are to call-up Ned Hanigan or shift Rob Leota to the second-row and start Harry Wilson in the back-row.
But both alternatives would leave the Wallabies’ second-row light.
Rennie had the option of calling up either Will Skelton or Rory Arnold ahead of the series, but instead opted to call-up the Japanese-based trio of Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete as his three overseas picks.
Fellow Japanese-based lock Harry Hockings, who is one of the best young second-row talents in the world, is in Queensland but has a broken finger.
The Wallabies weren’t helped when Izack Rodda suffered a foot injury on the eve of the series.
Nor was Rennie helped when one of his three overseas picks, Cooper, suffered a calf injury in the warm-up ahead of the first Test.
In the back-line, Reece Hodge could prove to be the answer at fullback despite Tom Wright’s brilliant Brisbane performance.
With Petaia expected to be ruled out after his early head knock, Wright shifted to fullback and had one of his best performances in a gold jersey.
But the patella injury to Perese will likely see Wright return to the wing and Hodge, who was called into the squad from the Australia A program after a poor season with the Rebels, start in the No. 15 jersey.
Former NRL flyer Suliasi Vunivalu could be an option on the bench.
It’s not all bad news for the Wallabies, with Len Ikitau (calf soreness) and prop Allan Alaalatoa (concussion) likely to be available.
Despite the heavy injury-toll Rennie wasn’t making any excuses for the Wallabies’ defeat.
Instead, the New Zealand coach said the Wallabies were made to rue their opening half-hour and missed opportunities midway through the second half where they failed to take their chances in England’s attacking zone.
“I don’t want to be here talking about injuries,” Rennie said.
“It’s a part of the game and we’ve had a few, but it wasn’t the reason we lost.
“We lost the collisions early, they choked us down our half for 30 minutes and we’re behind 19-nil.”
Rennie said England once again one the “collision” area and said the Wallabies had to stop their roll-on to stand a chance of winning the Ella-Mobbs Cup.
“We knew what was coming,” he said.
“We just didn’t tackle well enough.
“We’ve got to chop and get them off their feet quickly. But we were a little bit too high and they rode through us.
“It’s probably not too dissimilar to our two tries, you get momentum, you get in behind the defence and with lightning quick ball you can put them under a bit of heat.
“We’ve got to chop and slow their ball down and certainly we didn’t do that in the first 30.”
Meanwhile, France moved to the top of the World Rugby rankings over the weekend while Ireland’s first victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand saw them move into second.
South Africa are in third spot, the All Blacks have dropped to a historic low of fourth under Ian Foster, while England is in fifth and Australia fifth.