IRB hands out extraordinary suspension to Wallaby

LONDON: The Wallabies spring tour has taken a double hit overnight with centre Pat McCabe ruled out of the Test against England and lock Rob Simmons banned for eight weeks.

McCabe reported stiffness in his neck after the Wallabies loss to France last week, which worsened in training and requires further scans.

Coach Robbie Deans said the "best case scenario" was a one-match rest for the centre, who was one of the few consistent presences in the back line recently.

His loss will force yet another reshuffle, with Mike Harris or Ben Tapuai possible replacements. In the latter instance, Adam Ashley-Cooper could move to outside centre, with Berrick Barnes starting at fullback and Digby Ioane and Nick Cummins on the wings.

Deans is due to name the side to face England on Thursday morning local time.

There is also a looming locks crisis in the Wallabies after the IRB handed Reds lock Simmons an eight-week ban for a lifting tackle on France flanker Yannick Nyanga. Deans said the ARU had not decided whether it would appeal.

"We're disappointed in the decision but I haven't had the opportunity to read the decision yet and obviously we'll do that before we settle on [whether] that's the end of the matter or not," he said.

In its decision, the IRB judicial officer deemed Simmons's tackle to be at the "high end" of the scale, so gave an entry point of 12 weeks. Two weeks was added as a "deterrent" before six weeks was taken off the penalty for Simmons's "exemplary previous disciplinary record".

With a second lock, Kane Douglas, already ruled out of Saturday's Test with a knee injury, Simmons's suspension increases the likelihood that Scott Higginbotham will be called into the squad following the end of his two-Test ban this weekend.

"We've maintained contact with Scotty, he continues to train and from the outset was hopeful that it wouldn't be the end of his tour prospects," Deans said.

"He's obviously a bloke who would have been here if he hadn't had that setback so he's high on our list."

Deans did not rule out calling for two replacements but said it would hinge on Douglas's recovery.

"If the medical staff believe it's marginal that he'll be available to us next week we'll probably have to act," he said.

For Saturday's Test, versatile forward Dave Dennis, who is likely to start in the back row, could be moved to lock to replace Sitaleki Timani or Nathan Sharpe, should the need arise, with Radike Samo to come off the bench at blindside.

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