Macqueen opts for pace of Williams

The very best tend to make their own rules rather than follow everyone else's, so there were no reports of shockwaves in south-west London yesterday when the Australia coach, Rod Macqueen, decided to fly in the face of received wisdom by changing a winning side. Jim Williams, born in the New South Wales town of Young but now very definitely in the veteran category, will replace Matt Cockbain in the world champions' back row against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

The very best tend to make their own rules rather than follow everyone else's, so there were no reports of shockwaves in south-west London yesterday when the Australia coach, Rod Macqueen, decided to fly in the face of received wisdom by changing a winning side. Jim Williams, born in the New South Wales town of Young but now very definitely in the veteran category, will replace Matt Cockbain in the world champions' back row against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

"Jim has been one of our most powerful runners all year, and he could give us some early attacking opportunities," said Macqueen, whose choice of the word "early" suggested that Cockbain, his preferred blind-side flanker for the last three years, will get a run at some point during the game. The Wallabies clearly intend to meet muscle with muscle; the combination of the 30-year-old Williams and the Tongan-born No 8 Toutai Kefu will ensure a degree of parity in the grunt and groan department. However, Cockbain is a useful line-out forward whose athleticism might prove priceless in the latter stages of a tight game.

Williams is a born-again loosie who began his senior career as an out-and-out wing. He played a season at West Hartlepool in 1994-95 - rather a shock to the system for someone with an Australian's winning habit - before flying home to sample Super 12 with the New South Wales Waratahs. He quickly graduated to the Wallabies' World Cup Sevens squad, won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal as a short game specialist in 1998 and then completed a wholly unexpected climb to the top of the tree by winning a first cap against Ireland last year.

Macqueen's assumption that England will ask some serious physical questions is further reflected in his bench selection, where there is a five-two split between forwards and backs. Elton Flatley, the outside-half from Queensland, would presumably have held his place among the replacements but for the wrist injury he suffered at Murrayfield last weekend. In his absence, however, the coach has named three back-five forwards - Cockbain, Mark Connors and the uncapped breakaway Phil Waugh - and restricted his wider options to a bare minimum. Chris Whitaker, the scrum-half, and Nathan Grey will be the only non-forwards on the touchline.

Up in Scotland, Ian McGeechan took the more familiar course of changing a losing side by making four alterations to the team beaten by the Australians five days ago. Kenny Logan, the Wasps wing who must have thought his Test career was done and dusted when he was drummed out of last season's Six Nations line-up, replaces the inexperienced Jon Steel against Samoa on Saturday, while the gigantic Richard Metcalfe takes over from the merely huge Stuart Grimes in the second row. Jason White, so impressive on his debut against England in the Calcutta Cup match back in April, returns to the blind-side flank, while Jon Petrie shifts to No 8 for Simon Taylor, who has a broken hand.

On the club front, Pontypridd became the latest side to lure a big-name international away from rugby league by signing Alan Hunte, the former Great Britain wing, from Warrington. With Kieron Cunningham, the St Helens hooker, indicating that he might cross the divide sooner rather than later, the trickle of 13-man defections is in danger of becoming a flood.

"I feel this is going to be an exciting time in my career," said Hunte, who, at 30, will have to learn fast if he is to capture of the imagination of the partisan die-hards at Sardis Road. "I've trained with Ponty this week and I am most impressed with their dedication and commitment."

* Bernard Gadney, the former England captain and Leicester scrum-half, has died at the age of 91. He was England's oldest surviving international player and the oldest international captain in the world. Gadney won 14 caps between 1932 and 1938, leading his country eight times, most notably during a Triple Crown-winning season in 1934.

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