Barnes could be in for shock Tri Nations decider return

Injured Wallaby centre Berrick Barnes’ desperation to play in a rare decider has him pushing recovery limits for a surprise return against the All Blacks next weekend.

Barnes 22, had been put into the “unlikely” category by the Wallabies management for the winner-takes-all Tri-Nations clash at Suncorp Stadium on September 13.

The inside centre has however reported that his shoulder is recovering well which will no doubt be a boost for coach Robbie Deans after he was sorely missed in the 53-8 drubbing by South Africa on the weekend.

Barnes has been undergoing intense physiotherapy on his AC joint since injuring it in Durban on August 23 to speed up his return on what was originally listed as a three to four week recovery period.

He is now optimistic that if he can train solidly with the Wallabies at Ballymore on Monday he’ll be right to play defending champions New Zealand.

“I’m doing all the physio at the moment and things are looking okay,” Barnes told AAP.

“We’ll make a decision on Sunday or Monday.

“I wouldn’t be any more than (50-50), I’m just hopeful.

“If I’m right, I’m right. But I don’t want to be a dead wood out there, especially in the last 20 minutes.”

Barnes importance for the Wallaby midfield was evident when he was absent in last week’s test. His ultra-reliable low defence and backline organisation skills as well as a second option as ball carrier beside Matt Giteau were sorely missed last week.

Former Wallaby world cup winner Tim Horan believes that the Queenslander’s return is crucial to Australia’s hopes of winning their first Tri-Nations title since 2001.

“It’s an important part of it and would be a major factor to the confidence of the team,” said the 80-Test Horan.

“I think the stability right across the team itself is affected in not having Berrick there.”

While Deans may be sweating on Barnes’ fitness to solve the midfield defensive problems , Barnes is equally keen to play.

The former fringe Brisbane Bronco and current Queensland Red hasn’t tasted senior finals football, save for the Wallabies World Cup quarter-final loss to England in Marseille last year.

“I don’t think I’ve played in a game that’s this important,” he said.

“I don’t get the chance to play in big games, my last grand final was Kingaroy under-12s.

“In terms of importance, this game is pretty big. It’s exciting to have this opportunity.”

If Barnes is unable to play Deans may be forced to play league convert Tahu who had something of a nightmare against the Springboks.

Tahu did however get the backing of both Barnes and Horan.”It was a tough day at the office for him but I also had that against the All Blacks (in Auckland),” Barnes said.

“He has phenomenal skills and we’ll see how good he is when he gets some front-foot ball.”

Horan felt the former NSW Origin and Kangaroos winger wasn’t suited to inside centre.

“Timana is probably more of a No.13-winger and I even thought that before he started playing there but it was nowhere near his fault,” he said.

“He came in once or twice and they scored a couple of tries but there were plenty of others as well.

“I hope they don’t make him the (scapegoat).

“He’s definitely got the skills and he’ll be there for a while yet too.”

Lock Dan Vickerman is the other key man who the Wallabies missed last week but he has been given next to no chance of playing.

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