Hape to threaten Giteau, as Wilkinson is benched
England coach Martin Johnson has warned the Wallabies there’s nothing defensive in his selection of former New Zealand rugby league centre Shontayne Hape on Saturday night.
While 2003 World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson will have to bide his time on the bench at Subiaco Oval, the powerful Hape will oppose Matt Giteau at inside centre in his Test debut.
The 29-year-old, who qualifies after living in England for eight years, joins a select band of five players to have become a dual international for two separate countries.
Johnson is an unavowed fan of the former Warriors star who played 14 league Tests and switched codes in 2008 after a highly-successful stint with the Bradford Bulls.
While the 102kg Hape will significantly outweight the elusive Giteau, Johnson denied he was picked for his defence and would prove a handful in attack for the Wallabies young backline alongside veteran Mike Tindall.
“Shontayne and Mike are both very skilful with the ball in hand,” he said.
“Shontayne has a very good passing game and off-load game ans is very drect and is a very dangerous attacker.
“I have been very impressed with him.
“He’s one of those guys that seems to have a bit more time than most, he’s very composed.”
Lote Tuqiri (for Fiji and Australia), Brad Thorn, Henry Paul and Lesley Vainikolo ar the only other code-crossers two have represented different nations.
Hape sports a Maori tattoo but is honoured to finally be starting his first Test after illness denied him the opportunity on the eve of this year’s Six Nations.
He bounced back to star in England’s pre-tour 36-25 win over the Barbarians at Twickenham almost a fortnight ago.
“I am proud to pull on that England jersey, I’ve been over here for eight years, my kids were born here and it is home to me now, so I feel very comfortable with it,” he said then.
“It’s a great honour and I will be going out there not only representing my country – England – but my family that live here and all my friends.”
Hape takes over at No.12 from injured fellow Kiwi Riki Flutey and is one of four changes from the England team that lost the final Six Nations game against France.
Veteran hooker Steve Thompson and lock Tom Palmer both start after coming off the bench in Paris while there is a return from injury for flanker Tom Croft.
Five-eighth Toby Flood ensured Wilkinson, who returned to form in the French premiership with Toulon, will cool his heels on the bench.
Captained by Lewis Moody, England are chasing their first victory over the Wallabies on Australian soil since the 2003 World Cup final, when Wilkinson kicked the winning field goal in extra-time.© AAP 2013