Drew Mitchell defies odds to return for Wallabies

RUSSELL JACKSON
Last updated 21:08 22/11/2012
Drew Mitchell
Getty Images
COMEBACK: Wallabies' winger Drew Mitchell makes an unlikely return from injury to face Italy.

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Drew Mitchell is adamant he has plenty of good rugby left in him as he returns to the Wallabies' starting team against Italy just three months after being told his career could be over.

Mitchell comes in for Digby Ioane - who is still being eased back into the game after a knee injury - in one of four changes coach Robbie Deans has made to the starting team that defeated England 20-14 at Twickenham last weekend.

Stephen Moore replaces Tatafu-Polota Nau at hooker while Brett Sheehan comes in at halfback for Nick Phipps and aggressive flanker Scott Higginbotham returns from suspension for Dave Dennis at No 6.

The test in Florence on Saturday is a special occasion for the 61-test winger Mitchell, who has battled injuries for the past two years, as it's just his third starting role for the Wallabies in 13 months.

It caps an against-the-odds comeback after he re-injured his troublesome ankle against the All Blacks in August and was diagnosed with a career-threatening ruptured tibial posterior tendon.

"It was the toughest thing I've had to consider ... I was looking at never playing again, so this Italy game is an opportunity, at one point, I thought I wouldn't have," said Mitchell, who returned to the Wallabies' bench against New Zealand last month.

"I haven't had an opportunity like this for quite some time and, given my recent history, it's pretty significant.

"The guys who have been playing have been doing a great job but I'm looking to make the most of this chance.

"I feel like I've got plenty more years left in me."

Mitchell's ongoing complications with his right leg stem back to a horrific Super Rugby injury he suffered playing for the Waratahs against Queensland early in 2011 when he broke and dislocated his ankle.

He fought his way back only to be ruled out again when he tore his hamstring in the World Cup pool match against Russia in October.

Not surprisingly, Mitchell is champing at the bit to take on the Italians after getting a taste of the Europe tour action when he came on late against England.

"I was warming up all night on the sideline and was so keen to get out there," he said.

"The boys did a great job turning things around after the France loss, they were very aggressive at the breakdown and that certainly helped the backs."

After his cameo, Mitchell was given a reminder of how good rugby can be.

"It's always great to finish the game when you have a win and it was nice to go back into the bath tubs and the dressing room and share a beer.

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"We tried to fill up the Cook Cup ... we didn't quite fill it because it's pretty big ... but things like that are memories you savour."

Wallabies: Berrick Barnes, Nick Cummins, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Tapuai, Drew Mitchell, Kurtley Beale, Brett Sheehan, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Sitaleki Timani, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson. Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Dave Dennis, Liam Gill, Nick Phipps, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane.

- AAP

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