Skelton to make Wallabies debut
June 17, 2014
The Waratahs' Will Skelton could prove hard to handle for France © Getty Images
New South Wales Waratahs lock Will Skelton will make his Test debut for the Wallabies as they target a clean sweep of France in the final match of their three-Test series at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
With Australia entering the match with an insurmountable 2-0 series lead, coach Ewen McKenzie has opted to give the 203cm, 140kg second-rower an opportunity in the starting side in his home state.
The 22-year-old's inclusion represents one of the two changes made to the starting XV, with Skelton's Waratahs team-mate Wycliff Palu returning at No.8 after missing the second Test in Melbourne with a minor ankle injury.
There are two changes to the bench, with Brumbies prop Scott Sio and Waratahs outside back Rob Horne getting their first opportunities in the match day squad for 2014. Horne comes in for Pat McCabe, who has suffered a nerve compression injury to his shoulder, while Sio replaces the Western Force's Pek Cowan on the bench.
Melbourne Rebels lock Luke Jones has been nominated as the team's 24th-man. McKenzie said he was looking forward to seeing what impact Skelton would bring to the match.
"During the series, we've already benefited from giving two other locks, Sam Carter and Luke Jones, their first opportunities for Australia," McKenzie said. "The experience they gained will prove invaluable in the long-run and now it's Will's turn to show us what he has got. I've been really impressed with his attitude and the contribution he's made to this team since the beginning of the series.
"He's obviously got impressive metrics but he also has a big motor and is particularly skilful, so we're looking forward to seeing how he will impose himself on the game."
Saturday's victory over France was Australia's sixth consecutive win, a feat last achieved by a Wallabies team in 2005.
"During this stretch we've spoken a lot about ensuring we are meticulous with our preparation so that we put ourselves in the best possible position to play at a high level every week," McKenzie said. "Our desire is to always play an up-tempo brand of rugby and we've now scored 23 tries in the past six games, an average of almost four a game.
"Our defence has also been steadily improving with each match, culminating with a shut-out of the French in our most recent match in Melbourne. The challenge and what we are always aiming for is to put both together and that will be our goal when we return to afternoon rugby in Sydney on Saturday."
Australia: Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins; Bernard Foley, Nic White; Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (captain), Scott Fardy; Will Skelton, Rob Simmons; Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper. Replacements: Nathan Charles, Scott Sio, Laurie Weeks, James Horwill, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne.
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