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Wallabies suffer massive blow ahead of crucial Fiji clash

The Wallabies have suffered a massive setback before their crucial World Cup clash against Fiji with injured captain Will Skelton ruled out.

Although the Wallabies’ brains’ trust will wait until right before Monday morning’s kick-off before officially drawing a line through Skelton’s name, his absence from the official team photograph on the eve of the match was the clear giveaway he won’t be playing.

Coach Eddie Jones had already confirmed Skelton was in doubt for the Pool C match after he injured his calf in training this week and was sent for scans.

While Jones did not elaborate on the seriousness of Skelton’s injury, he is far too important a player to risk for a pool game.

Richie Arnold, who packed down next to Skelton in the second row in last weekend’s opening win over Georgia, will return to the starting line-up after initially being named on the bench.

He will join Nick Frost at lock with Matt Philipp coming on to the reserves.

Originally not selected, Phillip did join the team for the official portrait, wearing jersey No. 19.

While the Wallabies remain heavy favourites to beat Fiji, the unavailability of Skelton is another major worry for Jones.

The Wallabies have already lost tighthead prop Taniela Tupou to a hamstring complaint while halfback Tate McDermott has been stood down for concussion protocol reasons.

With European minnows Portugal still to come, the Wallabies will effectively seal their place in the quarter-final if they beat Fiji but next week’s clash with Wales will decide who they play in the knockout stages.

Australia lost to Wales in their pool match at the 2019 World Cup in Japan and were thrashed by England in the quarters while the Welsh went on to make the semis after getting an easier path.

Although Skelton was still named as skipper against Fiji, it’s not unusual for teams to play down injuries to key players, particularly with Wales waiting in the wings.

Team officials have not yet said who will take over as captain, with Samu Kerevi and Dave Porecki the likely candidates after they were sat next to Jones, one on each side, in the team picture.


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