The new-look Wallabies side named for Saturday’s Test against South Africa is to reflect the team’s new aggressive and unpredictable identity, backs coach Stephen Larkham says.
Quade Cooper and Will Genia have replaced Waratahs pair Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps in the halves, with Matt Giteau at inside centre named to complete a tantalising playmaking trio that will be unleashed in the Rugby Championship opener at Suncorp Stadium.
In tandem with the selection of mobile, ball-running back-rowers Scott Higginbotham and Michael Hooper, Larkham said it was a sign of things to come from the new Michael Cheika regime.
“We’ve got our own identity that we want to live by,” Larkham said.
“We want to be seen to be unpredictable and I think those guys certainly bring that unpredictability.”
Giteau earned a recall after a four-year absence, the 92-Test playmaker among the big winners in the keenly-anticipated first squad of the season as they begin the path to the World Cup in England and Wales in September.
Cooper and Genia 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 second-row, while skipper Stephen Moore, James Slipper and Sekope Kepu make up the front row.
Higginbotham beat Ben McCalman to the No.8 jersey and vice-captain 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.