The Wallabies most potent attacking threat has been ruled out of the Bledisloe Cup finale in Brisbane after powerhouse wing Digby Ioane succumbed to a knee injury that has plagued him since the back end of the Rugby Championship.
In a major blow to Robbie Deans' hopes of preventing the All Blacks racking up a record-equalling 17 test victories by completing a clean sweep of the trans-Tasman international for 2012, Ioane will be watching from the stands at Suncorp Stadium.
The 31-test finisher, one of few current Wallabies that might gain selection in an All Blacks squad, copped a blow to his knee against the Springboks in Pretoria and although he was fit enough to score the match-winning try as Argentina was beaten in Rosario a week later the bruised joint flared up on the flight home from South America.
Ioane was ruled out last night and could be replaced by Drew Mitchell, who has made a surprising recovery from an ankle injury aggravated during Bledisloe II at Eden Park in late August.
It was initially feared Mitchell would require more surgery but the Waratahs wing is poised to make his latest test comeback by completing his rehabilitation sooner than expected.
Ioane's Reds teammate Dom Shipperley is a less experienced - though more likely -- option while utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper has recovered from a head knock copped against South Africa to help remedy the Wallabies latest collateral damage although his preferred position is at centre.
If Deans errs on the side of caution and resists including Mitchell when the team is named later today Ashley-Cooper will be the only member of the starting backline that lost 22-0 in Auckland able to atone from that disappointment.
Ioane joins Rob Horne, Berrick Barnes, Quade Cooper and Will Genia as backline casualties since the All Blacks retained the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby supremacy.
In positive news for the depleted Wallabies camp No.8 Radike Samo has been cleared for selection after overcoming a biceps injury.
The Wallabies - and Queenslanders especially -- have fond memories of New Zealand sides visiting the state's spiritual home of football last year.
The championship-winning Reds won the pool game and final with the Crusaders while Richie McCaw experienced more heartache when the Wallabies claimed the Tri-Nations clincher 25-20 when the All Blacks last visited Brisbane 14 months ago.
New Zealand has not lost a test since and has an opportunity to claim the world record outright on 18 wins if they beat Australia and then open the end of year tour by maintaining their unbeaten record against Scotland at Edinburgh next month.
Deans names his squad later today with Ioane's replacement the chief area of conjecture.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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