THE WALLABIES HAVE conceded that losing winger Digby Ioane to a thumb injury is a significant blow ahead of their Pool C clash with Ireland on Saturday.
The Queensland Reds star will undergo surgery this week after fracturing his thumb during Australia’s opening victory over Italy but could feature in the latter stages of the tournament – should Robbie Deans’ side make it that far.
Utility back James O’Connor is likely to replace Ioane in the Aussies’ starting line-up when it’s announced on Thursday – O’Connor having lost his place in the side for missing a pre-World Cup squad event – and second row Dan Vickerman said it was now up to the rest of the squad to compensate for his absence.
“While it’s unfortunate to lose ‘Diggers’ for however long he’s out for with his injury, the group covers that.
“It’s sad to see him go but I have every faith that the guys that are coming in will do just as good a job – that’s the beauty of having a strong squad. Our group from 1 to 30 is a pretty well-balanced group and the guys coming in have played a lot of Test matches.”
The Australians have singled out Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll as the man to watch in Auckland. Labelling the Leinster man “one of the best in the world”, Adam Ashley-Cooper revealed that he was told to study his opponent and learn from him by one of his coaches all of nine years ago.
“Brian is a freak. He created a pretty painful result for us at Croke Park a couple of years ago when he scored under the posts to draw the game. He’s achieved so much. All of us in the Aussie camp respect him so much.
“On a good day he’s one of the best in the world and we’re hoping he has a quiet night on Saturday. I’m sure whoever gets the 13 jersey this week will be very excited to face him. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to compete against the best and Brian has been on top of his game for so long.”
Brumbies centre Anthony Fainga’a added: “Brian is just the kind of guy who slips out of tackles. I’ve been watching footage of him over the last five years and it seems that even when you think you’ve got him tackled he gets out of it.
“He’s been one of the standout players over the last 10 years and to get that opportunity for myself at a World Cup would just be great.”