Cheika defends Hanson call-up

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has defended the decision to bring in hooker James Hanson as the injury replacement for Wycliff Palu.

Palu, along with giant lock Will Skelton (shoulder), was on Tuesday ruled out of the remainder of the World Cup after aggravating a hamstring injury in Sunday’s 65-3 victory over Uruguay.

While Australia loses two of its biggest players, Cheika opted against drafting in another back-rower – instead flying Hanson out from Australia to join the squad.

Lock Sam Carter, who has been playing in France, also joins the squad in a bid to bolster the stocks of bigger bodies.

The Wallabies were criticised for their decision to select only two hookers, captain Stephen Moore and back-up Tatafu Polota-Nau, in their initial 31-man squad.

They will certainly face questions about whether it is a fair replacement to bring a third hooker in for their third-string No.8.

“You can’t find a like-for-like for Wycliff Palu,” said Cheika.

The loss of Skelton, the tournament’s second heaviest player, and the hard-running Palu is undeniably a blow to the Wallabies’ World Cup aspirations – both in the long-term and the short, with England looming on Saturday for an all-important clash which could decide the fate of both nation’s ability to reach the quarter-finals.

Carter will be available for the decisive pool match, while it is unlikely Hanson will be ready in time – having reportedly flown out from Australia on Tuesday.

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