Wallaby winger Rob Horne has made a miraculous recovery from a serious shoulder complaint to return to training ahead of Australia’s World Cup quarter-final with Scotland, though doubts remain over star pair Israel Folau and David Pocock.
Horne, one of the team’s toughest competitors and a renowned defensive threat, did contact drills during Wednesday’s training session and acquitted himself well.
His presence stunned the team’s coaching staff who had not banked on him being fit so soon after dislocating his shoulder 10 minutes into the Wallabies’ thrashing of England a fortnight ago.
The 26-year-old isn’t expected to be rushed back into coach Michael Cheika’s starting lineup for Sunday’s elimination game at Twickenham – with Drew Mitchell tipped to hold his place on the left wing.
But Horne will certainly apply pressure to the veteran should Australia progress to the final four.
“He’s back in training, we’re trying to see if he’ll be available for this week’s game,” Cheika said.
“He got into some contact (on Wednesday) and said he felt good, which is very positive because we probably didn’t think he would.
“He’ll jump in again on Friday and we’ll make a decision from there.
“Rob Horne is desperate to be selected, and he’s prepared to go through the pain to do it.
“I think if he’s not right this week he will definitely be right going further.”
Once again, Folau and Pocock on Wednesday sat out training with ankle and calf complaints respectively.
Cheika remained hopeful of being able to call on both players for the do-or-die clash, and following a rest day on Thursday he expects both to train on Friday when the team is named.
Veteran centre Matt Giteau is in no danger of missing his milestone 100th Test match despite suffering sore ribs – a reminder of the physicality of Australia’s past two victories.
The versatile Kurtley Beale, who has been a revelation coming off the bench this World Cup, has trained at fullback all week and will step into the starting lineup should Folau not recover, while Ben McCalman is expected to shadow the indefatigable Pocock at No.8.
Vice-captain Michael Hooper will return from a one-game suspension, taking the No.7 jersey back off young gun Sean McMahon.
Question marks will again surround Australia’s lineout, after Cheika changed things up against Wales by relegating Rob Simmons to the bench in favour of Dean Mumm.
However, the wily coach said he was undecided on the makeup of his second-row to face Scotland.
Predicted Australian lineup to face Scotland:
Israel Folau (Kurtley Beale), Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, David Pocock (Ben McCalman), Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Dean Mumm, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio.