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Michael Cheika has named his team for the Wallabies’ opening Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship game of 2017, bringing back Kurtley Beale for his first Australian appearance since the Rugby World Cup.
Rugby league convert Curtis Rona is a surprise inclusion, being named on the wing for his international debut in place of Dane Haylett-Petty, who has been ruled out with a bicep injury.
While Rona spent this past Super Rugby season playing in the centres for the Western Force, he does have some experience playing out wide from his days in the NRL.
Outside of the debutant on the wing, there are few selections that will shock Wallabies fans. Skipper Michael Hooper will be partnered with Ned Hanigan and Sean McMahon in the back row, while regular fullback Israel Folau and Brumbies winger Henry Speight will join Rona as the side’s back three.
Beale, who will be wearing the number 12 jersey for the first time in his international career, will be joined in the centres by Queensland’s Samu Kerevi, while squad vice-captains Bernard Foley and Will Genia line up in the halves.
As expected, Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman have been selected as the side’s locks, and while former skipper Stephen Moore is perhaps a slightly surprising pick in the starting hooker’s role, his front-row partners, Scott Sio and Allan Alaalatoa, will raise few eyebrows.
There is no shortage of experience on the bench, with Tatafu Polota-Nau (71 caps), Sekope Kepu (80), Rob Simmons (71), Nick Phipps (52) and Tevita Kuridrani (47) all regular members of Cheika’s Wallabies set-up.
They’re joined on the reserves list by Waratahs prop Tom Robertson and Melbourne Rebels pair Lopeti Timani and Reece Hodge.
The match will be Michael Hooper’s first game as full-time Wallabies captain, although he has an unenviable task ahead of him with the All Blacks unveiling a few surprise picks in a typically strong side earlier this morning.
Chiefs star Damian McKenzie was picked at fullback on the back of an outstanding Super Rugby season for the Waikato-based franchise, while there was no place for stalwart forward Jerome Kaino, who was overlooked in favour of Liam Squire.
The Wallabies will face the All Blacks in their first clash of 2017 at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Saturday night, with kick-off scheduled for 8pm (AEST).
1. Scott Sio (32 Tests)
2. Stephen Moore (120 Tests)
3. Allan Alaalatoa (11 Tests)
4. Rory Arnold (12 Tests)
5. Adam Coleman (12 Tests)
6. Ned Hanigan (3 Tests)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (68 Tests)
8. Sean McMahon (15 Tests)
9. Will Genia (78 Tests)
10. Bernard Foley (45 Tests)
11. Curtis Rona (Debut)
12. Kurtley Beale (60 Tests)
13. Samu Kerevi (8 Tests)
14. Henry Speight (12 Tests)
15. Israel Folau (55 Tests)
16. Tatafu Polota-Nau (71 Tests)
17. Tom Robertson (9 Tests)
18. Sekope Kepu (80 Tests)
19. Rob Simmons (71 Tests)
20. Lopeti Timani (7 Tests)
21. Nick Phipps (52 Tests)
22. Reece Hodge (13 Tests)
23. Tevita Kuridrani (47 Tests)