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Australia hit by sickness bug

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Australia face major selection headache as illness strikes ahead of England Test

Australia’s preparations for the final November Test of their European tour have been severely hampered by illness and injury.

The Wallabies bounced back from a disappointed 9-6 defeat to Wales, to beat Italy 26-7.

But now a sickness bug has struck down 10 members of the travelling party including two of the Wallabies key men – Bernard Foley and Israel Folau.

“Israel Folau and Bernard Foley are still recovering from a stomach bug, that cropped up at the end of last week,” an Australia spokesman told PA.

Michael Cheika’s side are also sweating on the fitness of influential backrow David Pocock, a neck injury has prevented him from training this week.

Pocock was replaced in the second half of Australia’s win against Italy and on Monday scrum-half Will Genia said he was “not sure” if Pocock will take on England as he is “pretty busted”.

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England head coach Eddie Jones expressed his doubts when Pocock was ruled out of the second Test during England’s Test series in Australia two years ago, despite the breakdown specialist suffering a fractured eye socket.

And the England head coach was sceptical when asked Pocock’s participation in this week’s Cook Cup showdown.

“We’re not even thinking about it,” the former Australia coach said.

“I hear this every time we play Australia, Pocock’s not going to be fit, he’ll be fit. When I heard it, I thought, ‘here we go again’.

“You know those merry-go-rounds at the Royal Easter Show. It’s a bit like that.”

England have won the last five straight encounters over the Wallabies since Eddie Jones became head coach, and they will be looking to become the first team in the rivalry to notch six wins in a row over their 109-year history.

The Wallabies first loss to Wales in 10-years two weeks ago was another unwanted record under Cheika, adding to the first home series loss to Ireland, first home-and-away losses to Scotland in a calendar year, and first Australian team to slip as low as seventh in the World Rankings.

For Michael Cheika and the Wallabies, the end of their 2018 international year couldn’t come soon enough, with a horror run slightly buoyed by their 26-7 win over Italy – it was just a 4th win in 12 matches.

Watch: Wallabies’ coach Cheika and captain Hooper after win over Italy

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Australia face major selection headache as illness strikes ahead of England Test