MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia plays France in the second rugby test on Saturday with both teams having made a number of changes to their starting lineups, particularly the visitors.
But no player will receive more attention than if Wallabies hooker Nathan Charles, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, makes his test debut from off the reserves bench. The 25-year-old Charles, whose life expectancy is around 38 years, takes up to 20 pills each day and has to be careful of his hygiene — "a simple cold can turn into quite a complicated chest infection," he told Fairfax newspapers Thursday.
Australian media have been reporting that Charles, who kept the disease confidential until the past few seasons, is the only athlete with the condition in the world who is playing a professional contact sport.
Charles believes exercise is the best thing to control the mucus build-up in his lungs and airways, which is what cystic fibrosis sufferers deal with on a daily basis. "I want to get somewhere and achieve something based on my performance and my ability as a rugby player, rather than someone going 'it would be a great story if he did this'," Charles said. "The thing I want to be judged on is my performance of a weekend rather than the disease I carry."
Charles, who plays for the Perth-based Western Force in Super Rugby, had an 11-month break due to a right knee injury. He credits that time away with giving him the resolve to play better on his return.
"It's a mental thing more than anything, believing I can be more dominant," he said. "Not having a care for what the body has to go through, just doing it, going as hard as you can for as long as you can."
If Charles comes on during the match, he and the Wallabies will be attempting to claim their second consecutive win over a hugely revamped France team which lost the first test in Brisbane last weekend 50-23.
France recalled captain Thierry Dusautoir as one of 10 changes to its starting lineup and 13 overall. Dusautoir will be joined on the team by flyhalf Remi Tales and center Mathieu Bastareaud, who both sat out the first test after a late arrival in Australia following the French Top 14 domestic final.
"We had to make changes, it was a very poor performance from our side," coach Philippe Saint-Andre said. "Australia played very well after we had some key players injured or involved for the (Top 14) final. Some guys didn't perform well from last week and they didn't deserve to be in the starting XV. I just hope it will be a better contest than last week."
Props Alexandre Menini and Rabah Slimani have also been named to the lineup, along with Yannick Nyanga and fullback Brice Dulin. Morgan Parra was selected at halfback after scoring one try and helping set up another in his 10-minute appearance off the bench at Brisbane.
Australia coach Ewen McKenzie made three personnel changes to the starting XV from the opening test, with hooker Stephen Moore (knee), lock Sam Carter (ankle) and backrower Wycliff Palu (ankle) all ruled out with injuries.
Queensland Reds lock and former captain James Horwill, who was named on the bench for the first match, is set to play his 50th test after being named as a starter for Melbourne. Flanker Michael Hooper will be Wallabies captain, taking over from Moore, who suffered a season-ending left knee injury early in the Brisbane match.
The teams will play a third test next Saturday in Sydney.
Australia Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins, Bernard Foley, Nic White; Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper (captain), Scott Fardy, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper. Reserves: Nathan Charles, Pek Cowan, Laurie Weeks, Luke Jones, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale, Pat McCabe.
France: Alexandre Menini, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani, Alexandre Flanquart, Yoann Maestri, Yannick Nyanga, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Damien Chouly, Morgan Parra, Remi Tales, Maxime Medard, Wesley Fofana, Mathieu Bastareaud, Yoann Huget, Brice Dulin. Reserves: Brice Mach, Thomas Domingo, Nicolas Mas, Bernard Le Roux, Louis Picamoles, Antoine Burban, Frederic Michalak, Remi Lamerat.