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Paris: One-Test rookie Issak Fines-Leleiwasa looks set for a maiden Rugby World Cup appearance after Wallabies halfback Tate McDermott was ruled out of Australia’s next match against Fiji with a concussion.
The Wallabies celebrated a clinical 35-15 victory over Georgia in their opening game of the World Cup on Saturday (Sunday morning AEST) but there was plenty of concern for McDermott, the team’s vice-captain, after a nasty collision in the 35th minute.
After a polished performance in the opening half, McDermott went in for a tackle but collided with the knee of a Georgian player.
Australia’s medical staff came onto the field at Stade de France and helped McDermott off but pleasingly for the Wallabies, the 24-year-old was able to get to his feet.
Coach Eddie Jones tried to sidestep a question about McDermott’s availability but according to World Rugby, the halfback displayed concussion symptoms and therefore cannot play inside 12 days.
With Australia set to face Fiji in eight days’ time in Saint-Etienne, McDermott will have to sit out the match.
Tate McDermott receives medical attention during Australia’s Test with Georgia.Credit: Getty
“Tate is walking around. He’ll do all the medical protocols,” Jones said.
The Wallabies have two other halfbacks in their squad, with Nic White and Fines-Leleiwasa.
White was solid without being spectacular in his 45-minute cameo and is likely to start for the first time since the Rugby Championship fixture against Argentina in July.
Without McDermott, Fines-Leleiwasa is all but guaranteed to make the match-day 23 and add to his one Test off the bench that came during a warm-up clash against France.
The problem for the Wallabies, who were only allowed to select 33 players for this World Cup, is if either White or Fines-Leleiwasa – the only two specialist halfbacks in France – were to now suffer an injury. White appeared to cop a knock on his shoulder during the game but played on.
Brumbies No.9 Ryan Lonergan, who has been involved in Wallabies squads this year, is in the UK with the Barbarians. Players can only be replaced in the World Cup permanently, and the new player cannot play for 48 hours after they join the squad.
“He [McDermott] is talking and moving and all good, Donaldson said. “We’ve got two other nines in Whitey and Finesy, so they’ll certainly fit in if he’s not fit.”
Captain Will Skelton was proud of the way the Wallabies executed their plans after the unexpected loss of McDermott.
Will Skelton of Australia celebrates winning at Stade de France.Credit: Getty
“When Tatey was down, it was one of those critical moments where I wanted to bring the team together and calm them,” Skelton said. “My approach … was to calm them down and get them back to doing our job. Tatey is a big loss and we had to move on quickly onto the next job and I thought we did that pretty well.
“Definitely proud of the boys’ efforts. It wasn’t the perfect performance but we’re looking to improve and set a marker.”
With Australia ahead 21-3 at half-time, Jones pulled off No.12 Samu Kerevi in his return game from a hand injury.
If the Wallabies are to register back-to-back wins for the first time since October 2021, they need Kerevi firing against Fiji, his country of birth.
“For him playing against your mother country is pretty special,” Jones said. “We want to give him the best opportunity to be ready.
“Samu we always planned to play 40 [minutes], whatever the game situation was. We wanted to give him a hit-out. He hasn’t played since Dunedin. He’s come back from a number of injuries, so the plan was to get him back for Fiji next week.”
Prop James Slipper (foot) is still under an injury cloud for the Fiji match.
Jones said he would keep a close eye on the Fiji and Wales fixture given those teams will be Australia’s most difficult group opponents.
“I’m going to go out tomorrow to Bordeaux and have a look at them,” Jones said. “Maybe a nice red wine as well. I might deserve one. Will [Skelton] might have a nice beer. Then we’ll get onto Fiji on Tuesday.”
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