Schmidt confident Wright, Ikitau will press for Georgia return after setbacks

Thu, Jul 11, 2024, 4:16 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Wallabies v Wales Highlights | First Test | 2024

Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt admits he didn't want to rush captain Liam Wright back from a shoulder knock as he makes a change at captain for Saturday's clash with Wales.

Wright picked up the knock during the win in Sydney, eventually replaced by Charlie Cale.

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The back-rower pushed to be fit but Schmidt has backed the one-Test Cale to step up in his absence, with Wright likely to return for next week's match against Georgia.

"He'd be a good chance for next week but this week was just too tight," Schmidt said on Wright. "He got a decent whack on the shoulder.

"He ran really well today. There are no other elements of his fitness that we're worried about, just having full function of the shoulder for a number six is pretty important, particularly as good as he is in the line-out.

"We've got confidence in the squad. It's good for young Charlie to get a start and good for Langi to get off the bench and get involved. I think it's one of the things that we want to demonstrate that we're a squad-orientated group.

"...It's frustrating but as I said we've got confidence in the squad. We thought it would come right pretty quickly. He got the whack in the game and post-match we thought the progress would be pretty quick. It's just a little bit slower than we would have liked.

"Once he wasn't fully fit to be named to train on Tuesday, we just felt better to give certainty to the guys who were going to be there."

Wright's injury brings James Slipper reluctantly into the captaincy frame, set to lead Australia for the 15th time.

"Slips isn't massively keen on (the captaincy) he just leads himself really well," Schmidt joked.

"He'll do a great job. Fantastic experience (and) it's that quiet leadership that we'll need and the quiet resolve he brings to his work will hopefully ripple through the team."

In a further boost to the side, Schmidt confirmed centre Len Ikitau will likely be available for the Georgia Test as he deals with a hamstring complaint.

"Lenny’s tracking really well. He should run at full speed by latest Saturday which puts him in the selection frame for next week," he added.

"With a young squad, if we don't give them time and I know I talked about the runway already, I just think having that clarity, as I said, I only met these guys two weeks ago.

"There's a lot to cover and we're trying to keep the menu fairly tight but to be really good with what we do have."

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