The Qantas Wallabies have made two personnel changes to their starting side to contest Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand in Hong Kong.
Tighthead prop Ben Alexander and winger Drew Mitchell return to the run-on XV after missing the final match of the Tri Nations Series against the All Blacks in Sydney last month through injury.
Alexander returns from a knee injury he suffered in the Wallabies’ 49-3 win over Fiji in Canberra in June that forced him out of the remainder of the domestic Test season and Tri Nations Series. The 25-year-old will again pack down in the starting front row alongside Brumbies teammate Stephen Moore and Waratahs loosehead prop Benn Robinson.
"It’s great to see Ben [Alexander] back after what’s been a pretty frustrating period for him,” Qantas Wallabies Head Coach Robbie Deans said. “Having been injured in our first outing of the year, he’s had to sit and watch since, but he’s worked hard and he’s ready to go.”
Lock Mark Chisholm, who was an unlikely tourist after sustaining a knee injury in Randwick’s Shute Shield preliminary final against Eastwood, continues his partnership with Nathan Sharpe in the second row, while captain Rocky Elsom, Western Force No.8 Ben McCalman and 2010 John Eales Medallist, David Pocock, will again lead the charge in the Wallabies’ back row.
Mitchell, who scored two tries in the corresponding fixture in 2008, re-joins the side after straining his hamstring in the Wallabies’ 41-39 win over the Springboks in Bloemfontein. The NSW Waratahs flyer’s return reunites the same backline from Australia’s two Tests in South Africa with Mitchell completing the back three of Wallabies’ Rookie of the Year, Kurtley Beale, and winger James O’Connor, who will look to continue the recent try-scoring form that has seen him cross for four touchdowns in the past three appearances for his country.
"We’ve re-established the back three that did so well for us in South Africa during the year,” Deans said. “Lachie [Turner] did really well for us in Sydney [against the All Blacks] and he’s been rewarded with a place on the bench.
"From the team’s perspective, the combination that has been so effective throughout the year has now been re-established.
"When you look at how many players are returning from the Hong Kong Test in 2008, that continuity hasn’t been common for us in recent times. But I think this is the first indication that we’re starting to get some consistent time together as a group.”
After starting on the wing in the Wallabies’ last Bledisloe Test, Commonwealth Games Sevens silver medallist Turner has been named amongst the Wallabies run-on reserves, along with Berrick Barnes and Luke Burgess. Queensland prop James Slipper retains his position on the bench with Reds teammate Saia Faingaa, Dean Mumm and Richard Brown providing further coverage for the Wallabies’ pack.
The Wallabies squad features 13 players (Adam Ashley-Cooper, Barnes, Brown, Burgess, Chisholm, Matt Giteau, Mitchell, Moore, Mumm, Pocock, Robinson, Sharpe, Turner) from the 22-man squad that contested the last Bledisloe Cup Test in Hong Kong two years ago, with eight players returning in Saturday’s starting XV.
Deans says Saturday’s match will provide a key starting point for the five-Test tour.
"This Test is very important not only in terms of signing off on this year’s Bledisloe Cup fixtures but is also important as an entry point into our European excursion – and for that reason alone it’s important that we start well,” he said.
Qantas Wallabies v New Zealand
Bledisloe Cup Test No.4
Saturday, 30 October, 2010
National Stadium, Hong Kong
Time: 4.15pm (local)/7.15pm (AEDT)
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ire)
15. Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs)
14. James O’Connor (Western Force)
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies)
12. Matt Giteau (Brumbies)
11. Drew Mitchell (NSW Waratahs)
10. Quade Cooper (Queensland Reds)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
8. Ben McCalman (Western Force)
7. David Pocock (Western Force)
6. Rocky Elsom (c) (Brumbies)
5. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force)
4. Mark Chisholm (Brumbies)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
16. Saia Faingaa (Queensland Reds)
17. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
18. Dean Mumm (NSW Waratahs)
19. Richard Brown (Western Force)
20. Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs)
21. Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs)
22. Lachie Turner (NSW Waratahs)
Qantas Wallabies Tour Media Manager
Australian Rugby Union
Ph: (+61) 424 148 417