Michael Cheika’s inside centre dilemma has been thrown a curveball with Karmichael Hunt ruled out for two months.
Hunt, who was initially named in the Wallabies 38-man Newcastle camp, had an operation on an ankle syndesmosis injury in recent days and will be out of action until the back end of the Rugby Championship.
The 30-year-old is the incumbent 12 for the Wallabies, having made a quick impression, starting in Australia’s three June Tests.
Hunt’s injury leaves Kurtley Beale as the clear front-runner for the starting inside centre spot in the opening Bledisloe, with Reece Hodge and uncapped Force centre Bill Meakes the other main contenders.
Cheika confirmed the prognosis on Monday in Newcastle, pragmatic about the fallout.
“Karmichael’s going to be out for 6-8 weeks,” he said.
“He ended up having a small operation on a syndesmosis injury so he’s got nothing doing for the first 10 days and then we’ll start working on him and his fitness level so as soon as he’s ready to go he’s straight back in.
“Obviously he’s very disappointed but there’s nothing you can do about it.
“When the injury happens you’ve got to get on with it, makes an opportunity for someone else in the team now.”
Eto Nabuli (knee) and Tolu Latu (neck) were both missing on Monday, with Latu expected to link up with the group later in the week.
Cheika said any player who wasn’t going to be right in time for the team’s Cessnock camp in a fortnight was not considered this time around.
The fit Wallabies have undergone gruelling fitness sessions in their home states in recent days, a move Cheika said was as much about attitude as their physical state.
“You go through three stages,” he said.
“First, you get angry and they get a bit rattled and they go through all those things, same as when we played, ‘what are we doing this for?’ and then you get used to it and you start to like it because you know that it’s an important part of your preparation.
“If you want to be ready to play at the best level that’s what you’ve got to do.
“For me the most difficult transition in from being a club coach to international is there being no preseason, so the chance to form the cultural side of the team because you get a lot of respect when you train hard and work for each other.”
The Wallabies train in Newcastle this week, with the Brumbies contingent to join the squad on Thursday.