A fantastic feeling
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
'FANTASTIC' was how Wallaby Drew Mitchell simply summed up his feelings about being selected in the run-on team for the first time.
"To be starting for the first time is very exciting," Mitchell said.
"Particularly at fullback which is my preferred position."
Wallabies coach Eddie Jones was forced into a major backline reshuffle when he named his team for tomorrow night's Telstra Stadium match due to injuries to regular fullback Chris Latham, winger Wendell Sailor and five eighth Steve Larkham.
These injuries have opened the door for Mitchell and Mark Gerrard to shine in the opening Bledisloe Cup test against New Zealand.
"I was told that I would be starting on a wing but Chris Latham didn't get through training," the utility back said.
"The coaches came over to me at training and told me that I would be starting at fullback instead."
Concerns have been raised about the Wallabies' ability to take on the All Blacks with such a revamped backline but Mitchell believes the team has been training to cope with any situation.
"There have been quite a few injuries but the Wallabies throughout the whole domestic season have concentrated on what you'd call a 'Squad mentality'," the 21 year-old said.
"At training players have been playing in different positions and learning all the moves so the cohesion shouldn't be a worry."
Any concerns the Wallabies are having about their injuries, the New Zealanders are having just as many about theirs.
A cloud remains over captain Tana Umaga's chances of overcoming an ankle injury while concussed scrum-half Byron Kelleher seems unlikely to play.
"They (New Zealand) are still unsure of their line-up," the new Wallabies fullback said.
"The All Blacks are also coming off a loss in South Africa so in a lot of ways they're similar to us.
"You know they will come out hard because like us they're looking to get their Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cup campaigns back on track."
Mitchell has come off the bench in the last three test matches against South Africa, scoring a try on debut in Sydney.
The Wallabies have been on the wrong side of the scoreline in their last two tests and tomorrow night will be looking for a victory to bounce back.
"South Africa are always a tough team to beat at home," Mitchell said.
"The big task for us now is to ensure that we win all our games at home."
It wouldn't matter who the opponent, a players first run-on start is always a big deal but the fact the match is against this country's biggest enemy gives Mitchell's build up an extra edge.
"I'm feeling allright at the moment but I'm sure when the game's about to start the stomach won't be too settled," he admitted.
"After kick off though when a bit of the match has passed the nerves will die down."