The Wallabies team to face the USA this Friday night (6:30pm AEST kickoff) has been announced, with James Horwill allowed to by-pass the match, making Will Genia captain for the first time while the forward line has had a reshuffle following the disastrous loss to Ireland.
David Pocock and James O’Connor are missing through injury, while Horwill was available for selection but Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said the lock’s work-load is the primary reason behind the decision to allow him to by-pass the match.
“James played every match of the Super Rugby season this year and has missed just one Test [of the seven] played by the Wallabies,” said Deans.
“That schedule has taken its toll. He’s had a recurring niggle with his shoulder over the last month. While an MRI earlier in the week cleared him of any major damage, it’s obvious that a break wouldn’t hurt so we have taken that option.”
Genia said he was honoured to lead the Wallabies:
“It’s a huge honour, a big responsibility and an occasion that I’m really looking forward to.
“We’ve got a big job ahead of us. The United States showed against Ireland that they are a totally committed opponent, and our own performance against Ireland, which was not up to the high standards we set for ourselves, will only have offered the Americans further encouragement.”
In the absence of James O’Connor, resting a hamstring niggle, Quade Cooper will be the primary goal kicker
“James had a scan yesterday which revealed a strain at the lowest end of the scale. By missing this week to recuperate, we expect him to be available for the match against Russia,” said Deans
“It’s more of an annoyance than anything but hamstrings are not something that you mess around with.”
In the absence of O’Connor, flyhalf Quade Cooper returns as Australia’s lead-off goal-kicker.
Drew Mitchell will start on the wing in the place of O’Connor, while Rob Horne makes his return to Test rugby at inside centre for Pat McCabe.
Locks Nathan Sharpe and Rob Simmons gain their third Test starts of the season, while James Slipper starts for the first time this year, being named at loosehead prop.
Deans says the changes represent the best selection options for this assignment.
“It’s our second six day turnaround in a row so we’re looking to freshen things up a bit,” he says.
“We are according the USA full respect by opting for the changes we have made,” Deans says, “in order to have a totally fresh and focused team.”
“The responsibility at the Rugby World Cup was always going to fall on the whole group, both in preparation and on match day, and that’s what is happening here. We trust all of our players which is why we are prepared to make the changes that we have for such an important match.”
Hooker Saia Fainga’a, originally included on the bench, was ruled out this morning due to a bout of flu while blindside flanker Scott Higginbotham, who was originally scheduled to play, was withdrawn after jarring his back at today’s training session.
The Wallabies side:
15. Kurtley Beale, 14. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13. Anthony Fainga’a, 12. Rob Horne, 11. Drew Mitchell, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Will Genia, 8. Wycliff Palu, 7. Ben McCalman, 6. Rocky Elsom, 5. Nathan Sharpe , 4. Rob Simmons, 3. Ben Alexander, 2. Tatafu Polota Nau, 1. James Slipper
Run on Reserves:
16. Stephen Moore, 17. Sekope Kepu, 18. Dan Vickerman, 19. Radike Samo, 20. Luke Burgess, 21. Berrick Barnes, 22. Pat McCabe