We're digging deep: McKenzie

Nathan Charles (Getty)
Nathan Charles (Getty)

Sydney - Australia coach Ewen McKenzie admitted he was down to bare bones in some departments after losing hooker Nathan Charles to a season-ending injury and back Pat McCabe to a neck fracture that looks like ending his career.

The pair were both injured in the 51-20 Rugby Championship defeat to New Zealand last weekend, forcing McKenzie to name a 30-man squad for next week's Test against South Africa in Perth without them.

McCabe fractured his neck for the third time in the match and his Super Rugby coach Stephen Larkham told ABC radio on Wednesday that the 26-year-old would be retiring from rugby.

Charles, who got his chance after injuries to Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau, was ruled out for the rest of the season with a pectoral tear he sustained at Eden Park.

Uncapped centre Kyle Godwin, scheduled to return this weekend after four months in the sidelines, was brought in to the squad to bolster the backline along with 29-Test hooker Saia Faingaa, who is likely to back up James Hanson in Perth.

Polota-Nau, who suffered a knee injury in the Super Rugby final, was also included in the squad but will definitely not play the Springboks and is an outside chance to face Argentina on the Gold Coast the following week.

"We're digging deep in the hooking area," McKenzie said.

"James played really well the other day and Saia has the experience.

"With Tatafu, I have an idea in my head that if we have him with the group, he won't be far away for the Pumas match. Next week's a stretch but the week after is looking more positive."

McKenzie said it was hugely disappointing for Charles to suffer another serious injury after he missed much of the 2013 season because of a knee problem.

"He's done outstandingly well and made a big contribution to this Wallabies squad, particularly technically," he said.

The versatile and pacy Godwin would probably have already made his test debut had he not suffered from a string of injuries over the last couple of years.

The 22-year-old missed the back end of the Super Rugby season for the Western Force because of a knee injury and is scheduled to make his return in the National Rugby Championship this weekend.

"We've been impressed with him for some time, he just hasn't been available at the right time," McKenzie added.

"We want to see him and put him in among some of the players and see what he's like.

"Hopefully we haven't jumped the gun on him (but) whether he plays or not is another matter."

Adam Ashley-Cooper is almost certain to start against the Springboks but his listing in the squad as one of four "back three" players indicated to some that he might not retain his position at outside centre.

"That's just the way we've listed it," McKenzie said. "But, obviously, again, we're getting thinner in the wing department."


Backs - Israel Folau, Peter Betham, Rob Horne, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Kyle Godwin, Christian Leali'ifano, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Nic White, Nick Phipps, Luke Burgess.

Forwards - Wycliff Palu, Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper, Matt Hodgson, Scott Higginbotham, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, James Horwill, Sam Carter, Will Skelton, Sekope Kepu, Ben Alexander, James Slipper, Pek Cowan, James Hanson, Saia Fainga'a, Tatafu Polota-Nau.

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