Matt Giteau has earned a Wallabies recall after a four-year absence while Quade Cooper and Will Genia will start in the halves in Saturday night’s Rugby Championship opener against South Africa.
The trio are among the big winners in coach Michael Cheika’s keenly-anticipated first squad of the season which will face the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium as they begin the path to the World Cup in England and Wales in September.
Back from his French base, Giteau will make his 93rd appearance for Australia from inside centre, while next to him is the ex-Queensland Reds pairing of Cooper and Genia, who return to the starting team together for the first time since November 2013.
“With new combinations comes a new level of energy to our team environment and Will, Quade and Matthew certainly bring that,” Cheika said.
“Matt is a true professional and his impact on the team dynamic has been immediate.
“His form in Toulon and work ethic since joining the squad has been first class.”
In all there are four changes to the team that faced England at Twickenham in the final Test of 2014 on the European Tour.
The other change is Tevita Kuridrani, who returns at outside centre alongside Giteau.
Giteau’s French club teammate Drew Mitchell earns a recall on the bench after Rob Horne and Adam Ashley-Cooper won starting wing spots.
In the forwards, giant NSW Waratahs star Will Skelton will partner Rob Simmons in the locks, while skipper Stephen Moore, James Slipper and Sekope Kepu make up the front row.
Scott Higginbotham has beaten Ben McCalman to the No.8 jersey and vice-captain Michael Hooper edged David Pocock to join Scott Fardy in the back row.
Pocock, who returns to the Australian set-up after missing the last two international seasons due to injury, is joined on the bench by another former Wallabies captain, James Horwill.
“With leadership comes responsibility as well. The bench will play a pivotal role in ensuring we close out the game as well as we open it,” Cheika said.
Wallabies: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper (vc), Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Rob Horne, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper (vc), Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (c), James Slipper. Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio, Greg Holmes, James Horwill, David Pocock, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Drew Mitchell.