Rugby: Alexander withdrawal further weakens Wallabies

Injury-ravaged Australia have been hit by a further blow with tighthead prop Ben Alexander forced to withdraw from the team to face world champions New Zealand in Brisbane this weekend.

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Championship - Wallabies going straight in Wellington, says Alexander
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Australian prop Ben Alexander skips past the challenge of Welsh flanker Martyn Williams

Front row stalwart Alexander will be replaced in the starting line-up by James Slipper for Saturday's third Bledisloe Cup test at Lang Park because of a wrist problem.

Sekope Kepu, who can play on both sides of the front row, returns from a knee injury to replace Slipper on the bench and is in line for his first appearance since the opening match of the Rugby Championship.

Saia Fainga'a was ruled out of the matchday squad on Tuesday after suffering a broken bone in his hand, leaving James Hanson set for his international debut as the replacement hooker.

New Zealand, who have won their last 16 matches, crushed Australia in their first two matches of the Rugby Championship to retain the Bledisloe Cup.

Team: 15-Mike Harris, 14-Nick Cummins, 13-Ben Tapuai, 12-Pat McCabe, 11-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10-Kurtley Beale, 9-Nick Phipps, 8-Wycliff Palu, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Scott Higginbotham, 5-Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4-Sitaleki Timani, 3-James Slipper, 2-Tatafu Polota Nau, 1-Benn Robinson

Replacements: 16-James Hanson, 17-Sekope Kepu, 18-Kane Douglas, 19-Dave Dennis, 20-Liam Gill, 21-Brett Sheehan, 22-Drew Mitchell.

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