Deans to gamble on injured players
Australia coach Robbie Deans would be prepared to take "a leap of faith" by selecting some of his injured stars in the World Cup squad - even if they haven't played a minute of rugby in the lead up to the tournament.
Deans, speaking at ARU headquarters, confirmed at least five of his front liners face a further six to eight weeks on the sidelines as the Wallabies' injury toll continues to mount.
"There is a distinct possibility that we will have to name some players who have not played rugby in that recent time, but obviously they'll all be (selected) for good reasons," Deans said.
Tatafu Polota-Nau (knee), James Slipper (ankle), Wycliff Palu (shoulder), Luke Burgess (hand) and Drew Mitchell (ankle) all face a race against the clock to prove their fitness before the coach unveils his final 30-man World Cup squad on August 18.
An initial 40-man squad for the one-off Test against Samoa on July 17 and the subsequent Tri Nations campaign will be named on July 10.
He added: "There's likely to be some that we'll have to make a call on but we will have observed their training...you can't hide in terms of the conditioning work that you do. We won't be picking anyone who hasn't shown that they're close to being ready to go because obviously it's such a short campaign and we just can't afford that."
Although his injury list is already in double figures, Deans insists it is not a concern and says his players will be better off following a gruelling Super Rugby campaign. He says having two teams in the finals series - the Reds and Waratahs - will prove invaluable for the national team come September-October.
"There's always 15 fit blokes, and that's what the game's about," he said. "We've seen examples this year where blokes have had opportunities and stepped up. We'll have 30-fit blokes come World Cup time. Critically we'll put into jerseys players who are fit and ready to go."
Of all the wounded Wallabies, Mitchell is among the biggest concern having broken his ankle against the Reds eight weeks ago. But Deans remains hopeful the star winger is on track for his second World Cup campaign.
"He'll start running before August possibly and as long as he doesn't have any setbacks it's not out of the realms of possibility that we'll consider him, but it will probably involve a leap of faith to some extent."