Fifteen Australians are included in a World XV match squad chosen to meet Eddie Jones-coached Japan in a Rugby World Cup warm up match in Tokyo on Saturday.
They include almost all of World XV coach Robbie Deans’ entire starting backline – fullback James O’Connor, wingers Nick Cummins and Taqele Naiyaravoro, centres Ben Tapuai and Christian Lealiifano and five-eighth Berrick Barnes – alongside All Blacks halfback Andy Ellis.
Ex-Wallabies Benn Robinson and Liam Gill feature in the pack alongside former All Blacks Andrew Hore, Carl Hayman, Ali Williams and Adam Thomson and ex-Springboks Bakkies Botha and Pierre Spies.
All but one of the bench players are also Australian – Tolu Latu, Ben Alexander, Luke Jones, Sean McMahon, Luke Burgess, Mike Harris and Dom Shipperley.
Wallabies fringe players Lealiifano, Cummins, Naiyaravoro and McMahon were released from Michael Cheika’s Australian squad preparing for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup decider in order to get some valuable playing time.
Deans wanted his many ex-Test stars to perform strongly against the world No.15, helping to enhance the chances of teammates who had some hopes of going to next month’s World Cup.
“We’ve got a limited amount of time to prepare against a side who have been together for a long time but these are high quality players who have an opportunity to enhance their reputations,” said Deans, who coaches Japanese Top League side Panasonic Wild Knights.
“There are players who have won World Cups at the end of their careers and players pushing for places in very competitive national squads with the clock ticking.
“For both groups, there is something at stake.
“Japan have a settled side and will bring a lot of energy to the match before they head to the World Cup.
“It should be a great game and we want to give them a really thorough test.”
Botha is the most experienced Test player in a World XV starting line-up boasting 617 caps.