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Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 1°C
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Deans forced to fish out the phone book again as Aussies drop like flies
Injuries to three key players have, once again, led to the Wallabies coach calling in replacements.

AROUND THE SAME time as the triumphant British and Irish Lions were walking off the pitch, at Hong Kong Stadium, to rapturous acclaim, back-row Scott Higginbotham’s shoulder went for a ride.

The Melbourne Rebel forward heaved into a tackle and instantly dropped to one knee on the turf, clutching his shoulder.

Australia coach Robbie Deans said, “Scotty spent the day in Brisbane to settle. He was in a lot of discomfort on Saturday. He dislocated his shoulder. It went back in naturally and without any interventions required so that’s a good start.

“He’ll have a scan [on Monday] and that will determine if there has been any significant damage… that will determine if it needs further attention or surgery.”

Higginbotham, for now, is out of the Wallabies’ 25-man training squad but, he revealed, the club doctor told him he will be allowed to resume training if surgery is not required on his dinged up shoulder. Deans and Higginbotham should get their answer in the  next 24 hours. Knocks to winger Digby Ioane and lock Sitaleki Timani have forced the coach into calling up three replacements to the training squad.

Ben McCalman comes in for Higginbotham while second-row Kane Douglas and scrumhalf Nick Phipps – not Luke Burgess, who is back from Toulouse – will train with the national squad this week. David Pocock and George Smith have already been ruled out of the Test series while Kurtley Beale is on his second comeback from an alcohol-related ban in less than two months.

“It’s been the toughest [selection] template ever,” Deans reflected, “and, obviously, we picked up a few injuries in the last couple of weekends so, I suspect, the selection process won’t conclude until the final whistle.”

Digby Ioane damaged his knee at the weekend. (©INPHO/Photosport/Steve Bell)

The former Crusaders coach is relishing the clash of tactical wits with fellow Kiwi Warren Gatland. He was impressed by the Lions’ 51-point win over the Barbarians at the weekend but he had some qualifications to make before offering his praise.

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“They were up against a side that had some pretty capable players,” he said. “It is always difficult, being thrown together with limited time together, and the Barbarians obviously didn’t have the same incentive. But, for all of that, they put some good rugby on the ground and they made a positive start.

“You could see a bit of their shape. They’ve had a couple of weeks prep and you could see that they’ve created some shape in their game already.

They’ve now had a hit-out so they’ll be looking to add a bit of attitude to that in Perth but, hopefully, they’ll get another bit of attitude coming the other way as well.”

*TheScore.ie will be liveblogging all the action from Lions v Western Force on Wednesday morning.

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