Wallabies ring the changes
September 1, 2009
Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia talks to the media after earning his first Tri-Nations start © Getty Images
Australia coach Robbie Deans has made five changes to his starting line-up for Saturday's showdown with South Africa in Brisbane.
Scrum-half Will Genia and openside flanker David Pocock will both start a Tri-Nations match for the first time, while Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell and Tatafu Polota-Nau also return for the Suncorp Stadium clash as the Wallabies look to snap a four-game losing streak.
Barnes' return from a head injury suffered against New Zealand in Sydney allows Adam Ashley-Cooper to revert to outside-centre at the expense of Ryan Cross, with Mitchell to replace Peter Hynes on the wing in the other change out wide.
Polota-Nau's inclusion at hooker sees Stephen Moore dropped to the bench, while skipper George Smith has been shifted to No.8 to allow Pocock to start at openside flanker. Richard Brown has paid a heavy price for a poor performance in Saturday's 32-25 loss to the Springboks, dropping out of the match-day 22 to allow Wycliff Palu to return on the bench.
Deans said Pocock had earned his spot on the back of strong contributions off the bench in recent Tests. "George is comfortable at the back of the scrum while Dave has shown, in the opportunities he's had to date, that he is worthy of a crack from the start," he said.
On the inclusion of Genia for the out-of-form Luke Burgess, he added, "Will has shown us since he joined the squad at the start of the Tri-Nations that he is up to this level, and we saw that again last Saturday night. Having Berrick, whom he knows so well and has such a great understanding with, playing alongside him will also help."
Meanwhile, prop Al Baxter's career hangs in the balance after he was dropped from the squad for Western Force young gun Pek Cowan. Utility Quade Cooper has been selected on the bench but must prove his fitness after spraining his knee at Subiaco Oval.
While the Tri-Nations and Mandela Trophy are both out of reach for the Wallabies this year, Deans was quick to remind his charges of the importance of Saturday's clash with the world champions.
"It's a Test match and against the world's best team at one of the premier venues in world rugby. That's not a prospect any of our blokes would take lightly," Deans said. "Every time you put on your national jumper you want to - and expect to - do your best. That motivation doesn't change, regardless of the circumstance."
Australia: James O'Connor, Lachie Turner, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Will Genia, George Smith (captain), David Pocock, Rocky Elsom, Mark Chisholm, James Horwill, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.
Replacements: Stephen Moore, Pek Cowan, Dean Mumm, Wycliff Palu, Luke Burgess, Quade Cooper, Peter Hynes.