RWC: Match preview: Australia – Russia

Trafalgar Park, Nelson, Saturday 1st Oct 3:30pm (NZT)
Head-to-head: First meeting

Team news: The injury worries facing the Australian team have become so bad that Robbie Deans has been forced to play flanker Radike Samo on the wing. To make things worse, most of the injuries have been suffered by Deans number one side. Wycliff Palu has returned home after a hamstring strain ruled him out of the tournament, while midfielders Pat McCabe, Anthony Fainga’a and Rob Horne are all struggling. Devastating fullback Kurtley Beale will sit this match out because of a minor hamstring strain and the fit again James O’Connor. Russia have made some changes to the side that lost to Ireland, unlike the Australians these changes are not injury enforced and Nikolay Nerush has named his best team. Nerush has brought in inside centre Alexey Makovetskiy and fly-half Yury Kushnarev to guide the side around the paddock, while lock Alexander Voytov, prop Ivan Prishchepenko and captain Vladislav Korshunov have returned to the pack.

Form: There is no doubt that the Australians are not the team they were during the Tri-Nations, a drop in form to key players coupled with the severe injury count have halted the Wallabies momentum. A win here win guarantees a spot in the play-offs for the Australians, they will then be able to sit back and watch the Irish and Italians battle it out. A win for Ireland will see the Wallabies play South Africa in the quarters, while a win to Italy will see them tackle Wales. Russia can hold their heads up high in their first Rugby World Cup, it has not been an easy task for the Bears but they have played some good rugby. The pack has given the backs some decent ball, but the Russians just cant seem to get anything going, and like most teams they tend to kick far too often.

Prediction: Australia will go into this match hoping they do not suffer any more injuries, and that mentality tends to cause more injuries. A win for the Wallabies is very much a certainty, but they way they go about playing the game will be interesting. The Wallabies have been off their game and some solid phase play would be good to see. The Russians will give their all in their last match, but simply do not have the experience to compete with the Australians, even if it is a makeshift line-up.
Australia by 60

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 (capt), 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 (capt), 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.

By Alex Barlow-Smith