Rugby News

Rugby-Swinton gets his chance as Australia seek their 'mongrel' six

SYDNEY, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Seven Australians have played at blindside flanker for the Wallabies since Scott Fardy last pulled on the gold number six jersey in late 2017 and coach Dave Rennie was very clear about why Lachlan Swinton will become the eighth on Saturday.

“Lachie has got a real edge to his game. He will be physical. We think that’s important,” Rennie said after naming the uncapped loose forward in his team for the Tri-Nations test against the All Blacks at Brisbane’s Lang Park.

That physical edge, or “mongrel” as Rennie’s predecessor Michael Cheika called it, is something Australia have been looking for on the blindside flank since Fardy took his famed abrasiveness off to Ireland with him.

Australia have never had any problem developing opensides, with top quality fetchers like Liam Gill and Sean McMahon moving abroad because of the lack of opportunity.

They have had less success producing talent on the other side of the scrum, though.

Some of the selections at six have been compromises -- the now retired David Pocock wore the shirt at the last World Cup just as a way to get him into the back row with skipper Michael Hooper.

Others have moved to fill gaps elsewhere, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto shifting forward into the second row and Harry Wilson playing the last two tests at number eight after an impressive debut on the blindside last month.

Ned Hanigan, who has played at blindside in all of his 15 test starts over the last three years, has been dropped to the bench for Saturday to cover the second and back rows after injury ruled Salakaia-Loto out of the match.

That has given Swinton his chance and Waratahs team mate Hooper is excited about what he might bring to the back row.

“I’m pumped for Lachie, I’ve played with him a lot now, I really enjoy what he brings to a game -- the energy, excitement and aggression -- it’s really exciting to play with,” the Australia captain said on Friday.

“He’s very green, this is only really his second year of Super Rugby, but (he’s got) huge potential and something that potentially the All Blacks haven’t seen before in a Wallabies jersey.” (Editing by Peter Rutherford )