Wallabies bring Simmons back to face Italy

Wallabies head coach Ewen McKenzie has named Rob Simmons in his team to face Italy after he recovered from an injury that ruled him out last weekend.

Simmons, who missed last week’s 20-13 defeat to England after suffering an injury in training prior to the opening test of five in November, is regarded as one of Australia’s best locks.

But having played blindside flanker at the 2011 World Cup, coach Ewen McKenzie is hoping the big forward can give the tourists something extra against an Italian team which can sniff a first, famous victory over the Australians.

“Most of the Italians’ strength is derived through their forwards and that’s where they will look to take us on, especially at set-piece. We have to take them on up front,” McKenzie said.

“Having Simmo return will benefit us in that regard. He’s instrumental in us winning our own ball while we’ll be looking for him to put pressure on their lineout, and their scrum.

“Aside from that, he is one of our most athletic and powerful forwards. He has trained very well at blindside flanker and it will be interesting to see how he goes with a bit more space.”

Simmons is the only change from last week’s reverse and replaces Scott Fardy, who is unavailable for selection after suffering concussion at Twickenham.

Australia were leading England 13-6 at half-time last week but allowed the tourists back into the game to get their end-of-season tour off to a negative start.

Going on results alone, it is the Wallabies worst period since the game went professional in 1996 and defeat to Italy, renowned for their strong scrum and who beat both Ireland and France in the 2013 Six Nations, would heap the pressure on further.

Simmons said Australia have their work laid out in front of them.

“Defensively, we need to apply a lot of pressure at the breakdown and try and slow their ball down,” he said. “In attack, we need to make the advantage line and get our backs into the game.

“The forwards have to work hard. It’s a big day for us forwards. If we can nullify their forwards, it will go a good way to winning the game.

“They’re very passionate, and emotional. You can see when they’re singing the national anthem… it’s a bit the same. Their forwards get a good roll-on and they’re hard to stop.

“So we have to try to get into them early and stop them.”

Italy coach Jacques Brunel will name his starting team later on Thursday.

McKenzie added: “There is pressure every week but at the moment we are in the business of winning the next game.

“We’ve never had an easy game here in Italy and even last year they had a chance to tie the game after the final siren. There wouldn’t be anyone in the Six Nations who would say coming here and winning is easy.

“They grow an extra leg playing at home and we recognise that going into the match.”


Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; James Slipper, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander; Sitaleki Timani, James Horwill; Rob Simmons, Michael Hooper, Ben Mowen (captain)

Replacements: Saia Fainga’a, Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Dave Dennis, Liam Gill, Nic White, Christian Leali’ifano, Joe Tomane

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