There are three new faces and a further positional change in the Wallabies side that has been named for their Tri-Nations opener against South Africa in Brisbane on Saturday.
Rugby 365 reports that prop Benn Robinson and lock Nathan Sharpe add their considerable expertise to the forward pack, while Will Genia returns to set alight the backline, in the personnel changes from the Wallabies starting line-up that headed off Ireland 22-15 in the city last month.
A further switch sees Adam Ashley-Cooper and James O’Connor swap positions in the Australian back three, with Ashley-Cooper reverting to fullback, while jack-of-all-trades O’Connor will start on the wing for the first time in his 18-Test career.
Robinson, who will feature in his 32nd Test match, appears for the first time in 2010 after being sidelined since early May due to a broken arm. The highly-regarded loosehead prop, who celebrated his 24th birthday yesterday, had missed just three of the 28 Tests played by Australia dating back to the start of 2008 – until this injury, of course.
Veteran second row Sharpe is also coming off an enforced lay-off, albeit of just one match – having been forced to withdraw from last month’s win over Ireland three days prior to the game due to a back strain.
After a steady build-up which included a full involvement in all national squad training prior to the team’s arrival in Brisbane, Robinson also had a strong hit-out with 60 minutes for his Eastwood club in Sydney last weekend.
Genia, who was forced to miss Australia’s last outing due to a fractured hand that was sustained during the second Cook Cup Test against England in June, also featured in club rugby last weekend to confirm his readiness for a Test return.
The Reds skipper from this year’s Super 14 will play the 13th Test of his career at the weekend, after making his first run-on start for the Wallabies in the corresponding game against South Africa at Suncorp Stadium last season.
While Robinson, Sharpe and Genia have all been deemed fit enough to be included in the run-on combination, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has opted to start fellow returnee Stephen Moore from the bench, as he re-enters the fray after a two-month absence due to a broken jaw.
Reds hooker Saia Faingaa continues in the starting role, for the fourth straight Test, in Moore’s absence.
“It’s really good to have a few of the troops back who have been unavailable to us, and Benn and Stephen especially, given that we haven’t had access to them thus far during our programme,” said Deans.
“Benn has had a little bit more background than Stephen, in terms of having been able to get underway a little bit earlier after his injury, which is why he’s ready to start while we are easing Stephen back in off the bench.”
Four of the players named in the Wallabies XV – centre Rob Horne, flyhalf Quade Cooper, prop Salesi Ma’afu and Faingaa – will be starting in a Tri-Nations match for the first time.
A further four among the reserves – fullback Kurtley Beale, loose forward Matt Hodgson, second row Rob Simmons and prop James Slipper – will also be on debut in the tournament should they be required. Simmons, of course, is uncapped.
The matchday squad contains 13 of the players who featured last year when Australian inflicted a 21-6 defeat on South Africa in Brisbane to hand the eventual tournament victors what proved to be their only defeat of the 2009 Tri-Nations.
Australia: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (captain), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Kurtley Beale.