Mitchell expected to replace Ioane for Italy Test

Florence: Drew Mitchell is expected to make his second start for the Wallabies since injuring his hamstring in the Rugby World Cup 13 months ago.

The Waratahs winger ran with the starting side during training in Florence on Tuesday and is expected to replace Digby Ioane in Australia's Test against Italy on Saturday.

Ioane and Nick Cummins will fight it out for the remaining wing spot after both ran there at training. Cummins is working with a slight quadriceps strain while Ioane is being eased back from a knee injury after making his return at Twickenham last weekend.

It has been a long and tortuous road back to the Wallabies first XV for Brisbane-born Mitchell, who endured two years interrupted by injury and was considered just a 25 per cent chance of being able to play rugby again a few months ago.

He is one of four changes coach Robbie Deans is expected to make to the side that beat England.

Brett Sheehan appears to be the choice for the starting halfback role, in place of Nick Phipps; Stephen Moore is likely to start at hooker in place of Tatafu Polota-Nau and Scott Higginbotham is expected to start in the back row after serving a two-Test ban for head butting and kneeing Richie McCaw in Brisbane last month.

Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe sat out of training on Tuesday, as did flanker Michael Hooper, after the pair pulled up somewhat battered from the weekend Test.

Liam Gill ran with the starting side in place of Hooper and David Pocock, who is still battling a calf strain, but both Sharpe and Hooper are expected to be fit to play Italy.

The side remained unchanged elsewhere. Ben Alexander is expected to reprise his role as tight head prop in the front row, while the back line combination used against England is expected to be named again.

Ben Tapuai will start again at inside centre, Adam Ashley-Cooper will play outside him, Nick Cummins is expected to partner Mitchell on the wing, Kurtley Beale will remain in the No.10 jersey and Berrick Barnes will start again at fullback.

Mitchell, who played against Italy on the same tour two years ago, said he was excited to be facing Italy on Saturday.

"Coming off the back of a pretty good win against England at Twickenham, the boys are pretty upbeat," he said.

"One thing we focused on since that game is we probably haven't shown the ability to put back-to-back games together that we can walk away and be proud of.

"Italy pose a pretty big challenge this weekend, so it's pretty exciting to be involved in that kind of preparation going into this week's game."

Likely Wallabies team (15-1): Berrick Barnes, Nick Cummins/Digby Ioane, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Tapuai, Drew Mitchell, Kurtley Beale, Brett Sheehan, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Sitaleki Timani, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson.

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