George Smith will lead a Wallaby team that features just one change in the Tri-Nations/Bledisloe Cup double header against the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday.
Rugby 365 reports that Smith has taken over the captaincy after regular custodian Stirling Mortlock was ruled out Tuesday due to the effects of the head knock he sustained last weekend against South Africa.
Smith, who turned 28 last week, has been captain of his country on one previous occasion.
He became Australia’s 75th Test captain when he led the Wallabies to victory over Canada at Bordeaux during last year’s World Cup.
Mortlock’s absence opens the way for the Sydney-raised Western Force centre Ryan Cross to make his full run on debut.
The 28-year-old previously came from the replacement bench in the first three Test appearances of his career – earlier in the year against France and then South Africa last week.
Cross scored two tries in the second of these matches, which was against France in Brisbane.
While his presence represents the only change from the starting XV which opened this year’s Tri-Nations series with a gritty 16-9 win over South Africa in Perth last Saturday, there are also two alterations to the Australian bench.
The Cross promotion has allowed for the entry of Timana Tahu into the Test squad, after his strong form for Australia A in recent the International Rugby Board (IRB) Pacific Nations Cup.
This won him a place in the Wallabies squad for the Tri-Nations. He will now become the 827th player to have appeared for Australia in Tests should he be required for duty in the match.
The other new inclusion is Waratahs lock Daniel Vickerman.
Selection for Vickerman on the bench completes the 29-year-old’s return from an ankle injury which has kept him sidelined since the Super 14 Final at the end of May.
Vickerman takes the place of Hugh McMeniman among the replacements, after safely negotiating his way through two club matches with Sydney University in recent weeks.
As has been the Wallabies’ practice since the arrival of Robbie Deans as national coach, the players in the Tri-Nations squad who are fully fit and not required for national duty this weekend have been released for club rugby.
Saturday night’s match is the first trans-Tasman Test to have been played in Sydney since 2005.
It will also represent the maiden Bledisloe Cup experience for eight members of the Wallabies side named Wednesday.
These are the starting backs Peter Hynes on the wing, Cross, inside centre Berrick Barnes and scrumhalf Luke Burgess; along with starting forwards James Horwill at lock and prop Benn Robinson. Also on Bledisloe Cup debut are replacements Tahu and hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau.
Australia: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Peter Hynes, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 George Smith (captain), 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 James Horwill, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Daniel Vickerman, 19 Phil Waugh, 20 Sam Cordingley, 21 Timana Tahu, 22 Drew Mitchell.
Date: Saturday, July 26
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 20.05 (10.05 GMT) (12:05 SA Time)
Referee: Craig Joubert
Touch judges: Mark Lawrence, James Bolabiu
TMO: Shaun Veldsman