Brumbies front-rower Ben Alexander will become just the 38th Australian to feature in 50 Tests after being named today as part of the Qantas Wallabies side to take on the British & Irish Lions in Melbourne on Saturday evening. Three Wallabies received their introduction to Test rugby last weekend, taking the number of players whom have represented the country in the 549 matches that have been recognized by the Australian Rugby Union as Tests to 869.
Thus this weekend’s achievement places Alexander among the four percent of all Australian representatives who have been able to reach the 50-Test milestone.
Saturday night’s match, at a sold out Etihad Stadium, is the second of the three Test series in the DHL Australia 2013 Lions Tour, with Australia needing to win to keep the race for the Tom Richards Cup alive.
Last weekend’s 21-23 loss in the opening Test in Brisbane came at a cost for the Wallabies.
Today’s line-up features two backline changes to the run on XV as Kurtley Beale returns to the starting fullback spot, while Joe Tomane resumes on the left wing, replacing the injured Berrick Barnes (head knock) and Digby Ioane (shoulder) respectively.
Midfielder Rob Horne (14 Tests) and the uncapped fullback Jesse Mogg have both been added to the bench. The pair have already tangled with the Lions on this tour, appearing for the NSW Waratahs and Brumbies respectively.
While replacement back Pat McCabe has also been ruled out after suffering a blow to his neck at Suncorp Stadium, his Brumbies team-mate Christian Leali’ifano has been cleared to resume, after his Test debut in Brisbane was cruelly cut short in the opening minute following a midfield collision with Wales and Lions inside centre Jonathan Davies.
Leali’ifano received the green light after undergoing the extensive post-concussion tests required by the IRB protocols, and will resume the goal-kicking role, which fell to James O’Connor and Beale in his absence.
The 25-year-old had long looked forward to the Melbourne Test, having been raised in Victoria and played his junior rugby for the Northwood Panthers club.
The inclusion of Tomane represents a second Test cap for the Brumbies winger, over 12 months after he made his debut for Australia on a wintery night against Scotland at Newcastle on June 5, last year.
Tomane was subsequently selected for the Wallabies side that faced Wales in Brisbane, four days later, but was forced to withdraw after sustaining an ankle injury at training in the lead-up to that game.
The injury, which reoccurred during the closing round of Super Rugby, subsequently denied him further access to Test rugby last year, while this year’s re-entry was delayed by a toe injury that was sustained in training during the Wallabies’ pre-Test series camp on the Sunshine Coast.
As with last week’s Test debutant Israel Folau, Tomane has strong Melbourne connections.
The former Australian Schools rugby union representative dabbled in rugby league, being part of a playing roster which also included Folau, at the Melbourne Storm during the first of his two seasons at the club in 2008.
Tomane, who was born in New Zealand but raised in Australia, returned to rugby union last year after four seasons in the 13-man code.
Folau last week became just the 19th Wallaby to score two or more tries on Test debut and will be gunning for more as he returns to Etihad Stadium for the first time since 2009 when he played rugby league for the Brisbane Broncos against his former club, the Melbourne Storm.
Only one player: NSW Waratahs winger Owen Crossman, has scored two tries on debut for Australia, and followed it up with a try second time up.
Crossman, who scored his ‘debut double’ against the New Zealand Maori in 1923, went on to post a try in each of the second and third Tests of that series.
The Australian forward pack for Saturday night is unchanged from the unit that featured in the opening Test, with the selection of Alexander the feature, as the 28-year-old becomes just the fourth prop to appear in 50 Tests for the Wallabies.
Alexander joins Al Baxter (69), current front-row partner Benn Robinson (57) and Ewen McKenzie (51) as the only players to have achieved the mark; with his completion of this achievement meaning that Australia will, for the first time, enter a Test match with all three starting front-rowers having played in excess of 50 Test matches.
Hooker Stephen Moore, who packs down between Robinson and Alexander, is already the most capped Australian in that position: on Saturday he will play his 78th Test match.
The match is the 550th played by the Wallabies to have been awarded Test match status by the Australian Rugby Union.
This includes a number played between 1920 and 1928 where NSW represented Australia due to rugby being suspended in Queensland following the end of the first World War.
The Qantas Wallabies team to play the British & Irish Lions in second Tom Richards Cup Test on Saturday at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne (kick-off: 8.05pm AEST, 11.05am UKST) is:
15. Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels)
14. Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs)
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs)
12. Christian Leali’ifano (Brumbies)
11. Joe Tomane (Brumbies)
10. James O’Connor (Melbourne Rebels)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
8. Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs)
7. Michael Hooper (Brumbies)
6. Ben Mowen (Brumbies)
5. James Horwill (Queensland Reds, captain)
4. Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
Run on Reserves:
16. Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
17. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
18. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
19. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
20. Liam Gill (Queensland Reds)
21. Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels)
22. Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs)
23. Jesse Mogg (Brumbies)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Romain Poite (France)