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Stephen Larkham: Michael Hooper hard to replace in Pool A decider

Published 06/10/2015

Full-back Israel Folau is battling to be fit for Australia's World Cup clash against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday
Full-back Israel Folau is battling to be fit for Australia's World Cup clash against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday

Australia assistant coach Stephen Larkham accepts that it will be hard to replace banned flanker Michael Hooper in Saturday's World Cup Pool A decider against Wales.

Hooper must sit out the game after collecting a one-match suspension following his citing for a dangerous charge on England full-back Mike Brown at Twickenham three days ago.

Speaking before Hooper's punishment was imposed, Larkham said: "We have a couple of excellent players waiting for their chance.

"B en McCalman and Sean McMahon have both played really well in the tournament.

"In saying that, Michael has been tremendous so far, and in fact the games before the tournament he was the stand-out as well. It is hard to replace someone like that, but the guys are certainly ready to go.

"McMahon and McCalman have put their hands up in this tournament. Sean could slot in at seven, or Ben can go to eight and (David) Pocock at seven."

The incident happened just before half-time, but Hooper avoided any punishment apart from conceding a penalty. Australia went on to win the game 33-13, a result that knocked England out of the tournament.

Hooper must now sit out the Wales encounter, but he will be available for next week's quarter-final, when Australia are set to face Scotland or Japan if they win the group.

In a statement, World Rugby said: "With respect to the sanction, the judicial officer determined that the offence was low-end, which has an entry point of two weeks.

"However, taking into account mitigating factors including his early admission, good conduct during the hearing and good character and the absence of any off-field aggravating factors, the player was suspended for a period of one week."

Apart from Hooper, Australia could also be without full-back Israel Folau for the Wales Test.

Folau suffered an ankle injury during the England game. The 26-year-old did not train on Monday and Australia's coaching staff are monitoring him closely. If Folau misses out, then Kurtley Beale would appear set to face Wales in the number 15 shirt.

Wing Rob Horne, meanwhile, is likely to miss the Wales match due to a shoulder injury that forced him off early against England, with Drew Mitchell or Joe Tomane his likely deputy.

Larkham added: "I think it is a really big test for us on Saturday.

"The experience they have in the second-row and their forward pack as a whole is something we definitely respect, and we are going to have to prove on the field that we can match them.

"I guess the focus we have going into this game is like any other - we have to make sure our preparation is right.

"Michael (Cheika) took over at the end of last year and tried to change a few things within the culture and playing style, and they are coming to fruition now.

"Those old games against Wales (Australia have beaten their next World Cup opponents 10 times in succession) have no relevance to this weekend."

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