Italy v Australia, Firenze, November 24
Wallabies freshen up for Italy clash
November 22, 2012
Drew Mitchell returns to the Wallabies' starting line-up for the clash with Italy on Saturday © PA Photos
Australia coach Robbie Deans has made four changes to his side for their clash with Italy at the Stade Artemio in Florence on Saturday.
Deans has opted to freshen up his side in the wake of their hard-fought 20-14 victory over England last weekend for their latest clash with a re-match with Wales to come the following week.
Scrum-half Brett Sheehan will make his first start for the Wallabies having replaced Nick Phipps who drops to the bench. The other changes to the starting XV from that which regained the Cook Cup at Twickenham see winger Drew Mitchell swap roles with Digby Ioane, with the latter reverting to the bench.
Blindside flanker Scott Higginbotham returns from a two-game suspension, having joined the touring party last Saturday, while Stephen Moore gains his first start since the second Bledisloe Cup Test of the year in August, taking over from Tatafu Polota Nau who will provide impact off the bench.
Deans says all four alterations to the starting combination had been made to inject fresh momentum into the side, and could in no way be construed as being disrespectful towards this weekend's opponents.
"It's quite the reverse," said Deans. "If you look at the men who are coming in, they are all seasoned Test players. Drew [Mitchell] is one of the most experienced Test wingers in Australian history; Stephen Moore is our most capped hooker, while Scott [Higginbotham] was the Test incumbent in his position until the suspension.
"No one should doubt the impact that Brett Sheehan has made since he has joined the squad either. Nick [Phipps] did well last weekend against England and he is still in a position to contribute this weekend but Brett has worked hard and has earned this opportunity."
While New Zealand maintained its unbeaten record against Italy last weekend in Rome, the 42-10 score-line at the Olympic Stadium belied the contribution that the Six Nations side made to the contest, which only blew out on the scoreboard in the final quarter.
"They are not the first side to have suffered in that manner against the All Blacks," Deans noted. "If you look at the game in its entirety as I'm sure Jacques [Italy coach, Jacques Brunel] will have done, there was a lot of good in it for them. I've no doubt they will be looking forward to another opportunity this weekend.
"It has been a notable feature of recent performances that the Italians are looking to play with a bit more width and use the ball more, expanding on their usual strength in the physical exchanges."
Australia: Berrick Barnes; Nick Cummins, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Tapuai, Drew Mitchell; Kurtley Beale, Brett Sheehan; Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Sitaleki Timani, Nathan Sharpe, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu
Replacements: Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs), James Slipper (Queensland Reds), Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs), Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs), Liam Gill (Queensland Reds), Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels), Mike Harris (Queensland Reds), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)
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