Hooker Hanson seizes Wallaby opportunity

James Hanson in action for the Reds in the Super 15.
James Hanson in action for the Reds in the Super 15. Bradley Kanaris - Getty Images

ONE man's trash is another man's treasure.

That was the motto hooker James Hanson adopted when Saia Fainga'a broke his hand at Wallabies training during the week.

The misfortune opened the way for the 24-year-old to possibly make his debut for Australia off the bench against the All Blacks in tomorrow night's Bledisloe Cup dead rubber at Suncorp Stadium.

Hanson admitted it was unfortunate his opportunity had come at the expense of his Reds teammate.

"It was bittersweet - you never wish injuries upon anyone," he said. "But that's when opportunities come up and I'm thrilled to be able to take mine."

It will not be the first time Hanson has benefited at the expense of Fainga'a. He started in just three of the first nine Super Rugby matches in 2012 due to injuries, but Hanson said the pair had enjoyed a healthy rivalry.

"Saia challenges you and pushes you to get better," he said.

"It's been a great rivalry between us over the last few years and hopefully that continues."

Hanson may even look back on this season a few years down the track and see it as a turning point.

"Even last year was good for me when we won the premiership - that was my first year of Super 15," he said.

"But this year has been great, being able to start Super 15 games consecutively, and hopefully getting my first cap for the Wallabies."

Hanson said he would relish the challenge of lining up against Keven Mealamu, who will notch his 100th cap for the All Blacks tomorrow night.

"For me, he's someone I look up to. We're quite similar in stature - he's quite short for a hooker, but he plays a lot bigger than he actually is. That's what makes him so difficult to play - he uses his size to his advantage and doesn't let it be a negative."

Should Hanson take the field, he would become the 865th player to appear for the Wallabies in a game given Test status by the Australian Rugby Union.

He would also be the 12th new cap to have featured for the Wallabies in 11 Tests this year.

There was more bad news for Australia on the injury front yesterday, with prop Ben Alexander forced to withdraw after failing to overcome a wrist complaint.

His place in the starting line-up will be taken by Queensland Reds prop James Slipper, with the versatile Sekope Kepu coming on to the bench.

Kepu, who is returning from a knee injury, last appeared for the Wallabies during the opening Bledisloe Cup Test of the year in Sydney.

Topics:  all blacks, bledisloe cup, james hanson, saia faingaa, wallabies



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