Robbie Deans has made four changes to his starting lineup for the Wallabies’ finale against Wales with David Pocock making his long-awaited return in the run-on side.
Australia play at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday (Sunday AEDT) in what will be captain Nathan Sharpe’s 116th and final Test.
Second-rower Kane Douglas makes his comeback from a knee injury for the suspended Sitaleki Timani while hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau replaces Stephen Moore after sitting last weekend’s 22-19 win over Italy in Florence.
Halfback Nick Phipps returns to the starting team after going on as a replacement for No.9 Brett Sheehan who suffered a tour-ending ankle injury against Italy.
World class No.7 Pocock hasn’t played since he injured his knee against New Zealand in August.
He then strained a calf muscle at training in Paris in the first week of the tour.
Deans is thrilled to welcome back Pocock for such a big game for Australia as they look to send Sharpe out in style.
“David is one of the best in the world as a player, and is growing every day as a leader, so naturally we are delighted to have him back,” Deans said.
“While he has continued to contribute off the field, this tour has been one of frustration for him, but we were not prepared to take any risks and potentially compromise either the player or the team, in terms of his fitness.”
“The upside to the wait is that his return comes at a time where we need fresh energy, as was evident at times during our Test in Italy last weekend.”
Pocock’s deputy Michael Hooper, who has been outstanding on the tour, is expected to play a significant part in the game.
Hooper will start on the bench but Deans may look to play him and Pocock together as he did in the 3-0 series win over Wales in Australia in June.
“Michael (Hooper) has had a massive year and it was evident that for him, as well as some others, it was starting to take its toll last weekend,” Deans said.
“He’s earned the right to finish the year on the park. Having the option of working him alongside David at some point during the contest is a win-win for us.”
Douglas didn’t accompany the Wallabies to Italy.
He remained in London with his mother who is in hospital recovering from a stroke suffered on a flight to Europe to watch her son play.
“Kane is ready to go,” Deans said.
“It’s obviously been a trying time for his whole family recently, but his dedication both to his family and his career is clear, and a testament to the character of the man.”
Waratahs No.9 Brendan McKibbin, who only arrived in Cardiff on Tuesday to replace Sheehan, is on the bench and in line for a first Test cap.
Wallabies team (15-1): Berrick Barnes, Nick Cummins, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Tapuai, Drew Mitchell, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Kane Douglas, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota Nau, Benn Robinson. Res: Stephen Moore, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Brendan McKibbin, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane.