Outside centre Adam Ashley-Cooper will make his 50th Test appearance when he takes to Florence’s Stadio Artemio Franchi for the Qantas Wallabies’ Test match against Italy on Saturday. Ashley-Cooper will become the 35th Australian player to reach 50 Tests and the fifth to do so in 2010. The Brumbies utility back follows in the footsteps of teammates Rocky Elsom (v Fiji in Canberra), Mark Chisholm (v England in Sydney), and Stephen Moore and Drew Mitchell (v South Africa in Bloemfontein) who have also registered their half centuries this year.
Ashley-Cooper will start in a Qantas Wallabies side featuring five changes to their starting XV following last weekend’s 35-18 loss to England at Twickenham.
The Australian backline has received the bulk of the modifications, featuring three of the side’s changes. After starting from the bench in the Qantas Wallabies’ past three Tests, Lachie Turner, who scored his maiden Test try against the Azzurri in the corresponding match two years ago, has been promoted to the run-on side following winger James O’Connor’s return to Australia on compassionate grounds. Saturday will be the 13th Test of Turner’s career but just his second this year after winning the team’s internal man-of-the-match award when deputising for an injured Drew Mitchell in his only other outing against New Zealand in Sydney.
O’Connor will re-join the side in Paris on Sunday.
Berrick Barnes, who captained the Qantas Wallabies in both midweek tour matches against Leicester and Munster, will start a Test for the first time since the Qantas Wallabies’ 49-28 loss to the All Blacks in Melbourne in July. The Australian inside centre plays his ninth Test of the year but just his third start, and the third of his career partnering flyhalf Quade Cooper. The other two occurred last year against Italy in Melbourne (when Barnes started at flyhalf and Cooper at inside centre) and earlier this year in Perth against England after Matt Giteau was forced out at the side’s Captain’s Run with Barnes fulfilling the role in the Qantas Wallabies’ ‘12’ jersey.
Luke Burgess has been selected at scrumhalf replacing Will Genia, who will take up his place on the reserves list after recovering from rib damage sustained against England last weekend. Burgess gets his first start since the side’s win over Ireland in Brisbane in June where he scored his maiden Test try.
Changes to the Qantas Wallabies’ forward pack will see the Queensland Reds pairing of loosehead prop James Slipper and lock Rob Simmons make their run-on debuts for the Australian side. Slipper, a former Australian Under 20 Player of the Year, receives his call-up to the starting front row after 12 caps off the bench, in what will be just the second starting appearance of his professional carerer – the first being for the Reds in their final Super 14 match of the season against the Highlanders. Slipper has featured in each of the Qantas Wallabies’ past 12 Tests since having made his debut against England in Perth, with captain Rocky Elsom, David Pocock and Dean Mumm the only other forwards who have appeared consecutively in each of those games. Simmons, who made his Test debut in the Qantas Wallabies’ win over South Africa in Brisbane this year, earns a start in his fifth Test and will pack down alongside Nathan Sharpe.
Elsom, who will continue his back row partnership with David Pocock and Ben McCalman for a sixth consecutive Test, will lead the Qantas Wallabies for the 19th time. This equals Andrew Slack as the fifth most capped Australian leader behind George Gregan, John Eales, Nick Farr-Jones and Stirling Mortlock.
Deans says Ashley-Cooper’s milestone is a tremendous accomplishment.
“It’s outstanding,” he said. “To get one Test is a great but to get to 50 is an outstanding achievement in anyone’s book.
“The great thing about Adam is that he’s played each of those as if they were his first.”
Deans says the changes represent the current competition for places within the Qantas Wallabies squad.
“They’ve all earned their right to be a part of this side,” he said. “Off the back of his efforts off the bench, James [Slipper] has earned his opportunity to start and Rob gets his chance to start having got some more rugby under his belt [against Leicester and Munster] and he’ll benefit from the experience he received off the bench through the Tri-Nations.
“Berrick has really worked hard at his game and deserves his chance to start. He has also made an impact off the bench for us and he gets his chance to start from the beginning, as does Luke [Burgess]. Will Genia is coming off a knock from last week and so he [Burgess] gets his chance to do some yards in place of him.
“Lachie obviously comes in due to James O’Connor’s absence, but we expect him to thrive as he has done with each opportunity he’s been provided with in the past.”
The Qantas Wallabies bench is highlighted by the return of hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who returns to the Qantas Wallabies’ Test side for the first since undergoing ankle surgery in June and can potentially feature in his first Test since defeating Wales in Cardiff at the end of last year. He played in 13 of our 14 Tests last year but will be featuring in his first for 2010.
Reserve outside back Pat McCabe is in line to make his Test debut after two powerful performances against Leicester and Munster, having earned his selection on the tour as the only player to play every minute of every match for their side in this year’s Super 14 competition.
Another player to capitalise on two excellent performances from the midweek fixtures is flanker Matt Hodgson, who is in line to add to his four Test caps after being called into the Qantas Wallabies 22-man squad. If required, it would be Hodgson’s first Test cap since Australia’s match against New Zealand in Christchurch in August.
The changes within the starting line-up has resulted in a revamped run-on reserves list with Benn Robinson, Mark Chisholm, Genia and Giteau reverting to the bench after starting against England at Twickenham last weekend.
Qantas Wallabies v Italy
Saturday, 20 November, 2010
Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence
Time: 3pm (local)/1am (AEDT) (Sunday, 21 November)
Referee: Christophe Berdos (Fra)
15. Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs)
14. Lachie Turner (NSW Waratahs)
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies)
12. Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs)
11. Drew Mitchell (NSW Waratahs)
10. Quade Cooper (Queensland Reds)
9. Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs)
8. Ben McCalman (Western Force)
7. David Pocock (Western Force)
6. Rocky Elsom (c) (Brumbies)
5. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force)
4. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
1. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
16. Tatafu Polota-Nau (NSW Waratahs)
17. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
18. Mark Chisholm (Brumbies)
19. Matt Hodgson (Western Force)
20. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
21. Matt Giteau (Brumbies)
22. Pat McCabe (Brumbies)