Midweek captain Berrick Barnes returns to the Australian starting XV for their Test against Italy in Florence on Saturday. He replaces Matt Giteau at inside centre.
Coach Robbie Deans made five changes to the team, following the humiliating 18-35 loss to England last week. The Australian backline has received the bulk of the modifications – featuring three of the side’s changes. Barnes, who captained the Wallabies in both midweek tour matches against Leicester and Munster, will start a Test for the first time since the Wallabies’ 28-49 loss to the All Blacks in Melbourne in July.
The Australian inside centre plays his ninth Test of the year, but just his third start, and the third of his career partnering flyhalf Quade Cooper. The other two occurred last year against Italy in Melbourne (when Barnes started at flyhalf and Cooper at inside centre) and earlier this year in Perth against England – after Matt Giteau was forced out, with Barnes fulfilling the role in the Wallabies’ No.12 jersey.
After starting from the bench in the Wallabies’ past three Tests, Lachie Turner, who scored his maiden Test try against the Azzurri in the corresponding match two years ago, has been promoted to the run-on side following wing James O’Connor’s return to Australia on compassionate grounds.
Saturday will be the 13th Test of Turner’s career, but just his second this year after winning the team’s internal man-of-the-match award when deputising for an injured Drew Mitchell in his only other outing against New Zealand in Sydney. O’Connor, who is attending the funeral of a friend, will re-join the side in Paris on Sunday.
Luke Burgess has been selected at scrumhalf, replacing Will Genia, who will take up his place on the replacement bench after recovering from rib damage sustained against England last weekend.Burgess gets his first start since the side’s win over Ireland in Brisbane in June where he scored his maiden Test try.
Changes to the Wallabies’ forward pack will see the Queensland Reds pairing of loosehead prop James Slipper and lock Rob Simmons make their run-on debuts for the Australian side. Slipper, a former Australian Under-20 Player of the Year, receives his call-up to the starting front row after 12 caps off the bench, in what will be just the second starting appearance of his professional career – the first being for the Reds in their final Super 14 match of the season against the Highlanders.
Slipper has featured in each of the Wallabies’ past 12 Tests since having made his debut against England in Perth, with captain Rocky Elsom, David Pocock and Dean Mumm the only other forwards who have appeared consecutively in each of those games.
Simmons, who made his Test debut in the Wallabies’ win over South Africa in Brisbane this year, earns a start in his fifth Test and will pack down alongside Nathan Sharpe. Elsom, who will continue his back row partnership with David Pocock and Ben McCalman for a sixth consecutive Test, will lead the Wallabies for the 19th time. This equals Andrew Slack as the fifth most capped Australian leader behind George Gregan, John Eales, Nick Farr-Jones and Stirling Mortlock.
The Wallabies bench is highlighted by the return of hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who returns to the Wallabies’ Test side for the first since undergoing ankle surgery in June and can potentially feature in his first Test since defeating Wales in Cardiff at the end of last year. He played in 13 of our 14 Tests last year but will be featuring in his first for 2010.
Reserve outside back Pat McCabe is in line to make his Test debut after two powerful performances against Leicester and Munster, having earned his selection on the tour as the only player to play every minute of every match for their side in this year’s Super 14 competition.
Another player to capitalise on two excellent performances from the midweek fixtures is flank Matt Hodgson, who is in line to add to his four Test caps after being called into the Wallabies 22-man squad. If required, it would be Hodgson’s first Test cap since Australia’s match against New Zealand in Christchurch in August.
The changes within the starting line-up has resulted in a revamped replacement bench – with Benn Robinson, Mark Chisholm, Genia and Giteau reverting to the bench after starting against England at Twickenham last weekend.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (captain), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Mark Chisholm, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Will Genia, 21 Matt Giteau, 22 Pat McCabe.Tweet