Battle lines drawn for Melbourne showdown
July 27, 2010
A suspension for Quade Cooper sees the Wallabies' selection door open for Berrick Barnes © Getty Images
Australia and New Zealand have both tinkered with their line-ups ahead of the first Bledisloe Cup clash of the year.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was forced into changes in the wake of his side's impressive 30-13 victory over South Africa last weekend due to a two-week ban given to fly-half Quade Cooper who was found guilty of a dangerous tackle on the Springboks' Morne Steyn.
As a result, Berrick Barnes has been handed a recall to the starting XV with the Waratahs play-maker slotting in at inside centre with Matt Giteau moving from No.12 - where he has started his four Test appearances this year - to the No.10 shirt he fills for the Brumbies.
Giteau and Barnes have been Deans' preferred midfield combination for 15 of the last 33 Tests, but they have not played alongside each other since the final Tri-Nations clash against the All Blacks in Wellington last November.
Only Stephen Larkham (87) and Michael Lynagh (64) have appeared mores times as a fly-half for Australia than Giteau, who has played 39 of his 82 Tests in the position. Barnes has played 17 of his previous 23 Tests as an inside centre, replacing Giteau in that position for the final eight minutes of last Saturday's Tri-Nations opener in Brisbane.
The inclusion of Barnes is one of two changes to the starting side that beat South Africa 30-13 in Brisbane last weekend, with veteran hooker Stephen Moore replacing Saia Faingaa in the run-on side. Moore made his return from a broken jaw via the bench last weekend in Brisbane, getting through 25 minutes of play as he racked up his 47th Test appearance.
It is not all bad news for the Faingaa family on the selection front, with Saia's twin brother Anthony in line to make his Test debut after being elevated to the bench. Should the Faingaas take the field, they will become the 40th set of brothers to have appeared for Australia in Test matches. The only other change to the bench sees Matt Hodgson return from a groin strain at the expense of his Western Force team-mate Ben McCalman.
The night will be a special one for lock Nathan Sharpe as he ties the Australian record held by former skipper John Eales for the most caps earned by a Wallabies second rower. Sharpe, who made his debut against France in Melbourne eight years ago, will be lining up in his 84th Test.
Fresh from a rest week that served as reward for back-to-back victories over the Springboks, New Zealand have made two changes to their side with Jimmy Cowan and Joe Rokocoko both promoted to the starting line-up.
Cowan will wear the No.9 jersey ahead of an unlucky Piri Weepu, who was among the All Blacks' best against South Africa in Wellington. Rokocoko has been rushed straight back into the run-on side at the expense of Rene Ranger after overcoming a hamstring injury. The in-form Weepu, who became a father for the first time on Sunday, will start on the bench while Ranger will play no part.
The only other change is on the bench, where Victor Vito takes over from Liam Messam to provide loose forwards cover.
The game will mark Rokocoko's 64th Test, moving him ahead of John Kirwan and Jonah Lomu as the most capped All Blacks winger of all time. As well, Tony Woodcock, set for his 66th test, will join former teammate Greg Somerville as the most capped prop in All Blacks history.
Australia: Adam Ashley Cooper, James O'Connor, Rob Horne, Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Will Genia, Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Salesi Maafu, Dean Mumm, Nathan Sharpe, Rocky Elsom (capt), David Pocock, Richard Brown.
Replacements: Saia Faingaa, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Matt Hodgson, Luke Burgess, Anthony Faingaa, Kurtley Beale
New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Joe Rokocoko, Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Tom Donnelly, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read.
Replacements: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Israel Dagg
Referee: Craig Joubert (SA)
Assistant referees: Jonathan Kaplan (SA), Cobus Wessels (SA)