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October 28, 2009

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Smith dropped for Kiwi match

AUSTRALIA coach Robbie Deans' efforts to find a winning formula for the slumping Wallabies has seen 105-test veteran George Smith left out of the weekend's final Bledisloe Cup match against New Zealand in Tokyo.

The 29-year-old flanker, who had captained the Wallabies in their last four tests, was among four players dropped from the starting lineup that was thrashed 6-33 by the All-Blacks in the final Tri-Nations test last month.

Full-back James O'Connor, and wingers Lachie Turner and Drew Mitchell were also omitted from the run-on side named yesterday, in a dramatic reshuffle of a backline that managed only a single penalty and a drop goal in Wellington.

"What we're trying to do is find a way of winning so we're looking for little points of difference that can help us to get there," Deans was quoted as saying by Australian media.

Wycliff Palu takes the No. 8 spot from Smith. Digby Ioane, who missed the Tri-Nations campaign due to injury, has been selected at left wing for Mitchell while Peter Hynes moves from the bench to replace Turner on the right wing.

Media speculation that new vice captain Berrick Barnes would swap with flyhalf and playmaker Matt Giteau was confounded, with Barnes retaining his spot at inside centre.

Instead, Deans sprung a surprise by shunting outside center Adam Ashley-Cooper to full-back in place of teenager O'Connor and bringing prop Matt Dunning into the reserves.

"Returning Adam to full-back helps with the balance of the side," Deans said. "It is not a slight on the performance of James O'Connor at all."


While the backline shake-up was expected - the Wallabies have failed to score a try in their last two tests against the All Blacks - 29-year-old Smith's relegation to the bench strips the team of yet another forward stalwart. Phil Waugh and Al Baxter had already been left out of the northern hemisphere tour.

Deans was scathing of the Wallabies' performance against the All Blacks in Wellington, complaining of their "capitulation" in the final five minutes of the match.

He signalled his intentions when he dumped Stirling Mortlock earlier this month as captain in favor of loose forward Rocky Elsom in the 35-man squad picked to travel to Europe via Japan.

"The critical thing is to satisfy what we're here to do and that's have the Wallabies succeed. That's the underlying motivation," said Deans.


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