SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia coach Ewen McKenzie recalled experienced prop Benn Robinson for the tour of Argentina and South Africa on Tuesday as he beefed up his squad for what is expected to be two physical Rugby Championship tests.
The 29-year-old loosehead, one of Australia’s best scrummagers, was left out of McKenzie’s first four tests in charge which yielded three losses to the All Blacks and South Africa as well as a one-point win over Argentina last weekend.
“The scrum’s been up and down ... and we’d like to get some consistency in that area,” McKenzie told reporters.
“He’s a very experienced campaigner and he knows how to play the game. He’s not going to overawed by the environment or the games that we’ve got to play.”
As expected, lock James Horwill returns to the 28-man squad after recovering from a hamstring injury and takes back the captaincy from backrower Ben Mowen, who led the Wallabies to victory in Perth over the Pumas in just his seventh test.
McKenzie said everyone flying to Cape Town next Monday would be fit to play both tests and was confident Horwill, whose physicality was missed in the 38-12 home defeat to the Springboks, would be ready to go.
“I got a text this morning, he’s running and he’s got some contact to do later in the week so he’s tracking as we expect,” he said.
“On Saturday we’ll get together and have a better idea of where we’re at with him and (winger) Joe (Tomane) and few of the other guys. There’s a few bumps and bruises around.”
McKenzie has added new faces to the squad in uncapped Queensland Reds pair Albert Anae, a versatile front-rower who was named as a hooker, and 19-year-old winger Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Feauai-Sautia gets his chance after fullback Jesse Mogg was ruled out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury and winger Nick Cummins broke his hand in last weekend’s win over the Pumas.
“We’re going to play a couple of really physical games and he’s a physical player,” McKenzie said.
“A couple of injuries have left two positions in the back three vacant and gives Chris a chance to come in, he’s versatile and the fact he can play wing and 13 makes him a good fit.”
Former Queensland coach McKenzie has again showed his lack of sentiment towards his former charges at the Reds by dropping flanker Liam Gill and preferring the bulkier Ben McCalman to cover starting openside Michael Hooper.
Prop Scott Sio came off the bench to win his first four caps under McKenzie but was also omitted to make way for Robinson, who makes up for his lack of mobility with his scrummaging technique and the experience of 59 tests.
Australia play the Springboks in Cape Town on September 28 before facing Argentina in the final round in Rosario a week later.
“You couldn’t find more complicated games to play on the road,” said McKenzie.
“So having a few guys around who are familiar with those environments is not a bad thing.”
Forwards: Ben Alexander, Sekope Kepu, Benn Robinson, James Slipper, Saia Fainga‘a, Stephen Moore, Albert Anae, Kane Douglas, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, Sitaleki Timani, Dave Dennis, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Ben McCalman, Ben Mowen
Backs: Will Genia, Nic White, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley, Matt Toomua, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali‘ifano, James O‘Connor, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Joe Tomane, Israel Folau
Additional writing by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford