A second Test starting role for Dave Dennis, a move from the side to the back of the scrum for Scott Higginbotham and a return to a starting midfield position for Anthony Fainga’a, represent the only changes to the Qantas Wallabies starting side for this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney, from the line-up last presented.
Higginbotham, who started at blindside flanker during Australia’s most recent outing, when it shaded Wales 20-19 in the third and final Test of the Castrol EDGE Wales Tour at Allianz Stadium in June, takes over from the injured Wycliff Palu at No 8.
This has opened the way for Dennis, the NSW Waratahs Player of the Year, to make his fifth Test appearance as The Rugby Championship kicks off in fitting style with Saturday evening’s highly anticipated showdown at ANZ Stadium.
Dennis made his debut against Scotland at Newcastle in June, and was then employed from off the bench during all three Tests against Wales.
Fainga’a, who made an impact off the bench in all three Tests against Wales, slots in for the injured Pat McCabe.
Coming off two three-day training camps, and a week’s pre-Test preparation in Sydney, the selectors: head coach Robbie Deans, coaching coordinator Tony McGahan and David Nucifora, have opted to run the same backline as that which started in the final Test against Wales aside from the injury-enforced change that has brought in Fainga’a.
This means Berrick Barnes, who was man of the match in consecutive Tests against Wales, retains the flyhalf role, working outside of halfback and newly appointed Qantas Wallabies vice-captain, Will Genia.
After making a successful return to the Test arena in the third game against Wales, and having rehabilitated a rib cartilage injury in the time since, Kurtley Beale retains his position at fullback. He will be supported by the versatile Adam Ashley-Cooper and Digby Ioane in the back three.
The experienced NSW winger Drew Mitchell makes a welcome return from injury to play in his first Test since the pool phase of last year’s Rugby World Cup, taking up the bench spot vacated by Fainga’a.
Up front, the New Zealand-schooled Sitaleki Timani gets a first chance to test himself against the All Blacks in the pack. The former Auckland Grammar student is one of two Kiwi-educated Wallaby forwards, alongside the former Wesley College, New Zealand Schools and Under-21 rep Sekope Kepu.
Kepu, who has specialised at tighthead prop this year, is one of just two survivors amongst the run on group from Australia’s starting forward pack when the two teams last met, in October’s Rugby World Cup semi-final last year. He played loosehead on that occasion.
Skipper David Pocock is the other, while hooker Stephen Moore and evergreen loose forward Radike Samo are on the bench this time, having played starting roles in Auckland.
The return of Samo to the Test stage continues his remarkable career journey. Prior to the June Test window, the veteran Fijian-born No 8, who last year returned to the Test arena after a seven-year absence, had been unable to maintain a regular position in the Queensland Reds match night squad.
While the Wallabies have enjoyed continuity in selection through June’s Wales Tests, just 13 of the 22 players named today featured in the Rugby World Cup semi-final between the two teams.
Saturday night’s match marks the commencement of the new four-way Rugby Championship, which has replaced the Tri Nations. It is also the next chapter of a Bledisloe Cup story now entering its 82nd year.
First presented in 1931, the trophy has been played for on an annual basis since 1982, but has not been in Australian possession since 2002 when, as the holders, the Wallabies retained the trophy following a 1-1 series result, with Australia’s win being achieved at ANZ Stadium.
Current Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was the coaching coordinator of the 2003 All Blacks side, which finally returned the trophy to New Zealand possession after it had resided in Australia for five consecutive seasons between 1998 and 2002.
The Wallabies last won a Bledisloe Cup series outright in 2001.
This year sees the first three-match series for the trophy since 1998, having been played over two or four match ties in the time since with – as occurred last year – the holder retaining the trophy if the series ended up all square.
Australia hosts the first and third matches of this year’s series, with the two teams locking horns on Saturday week in Auckland before the final game is played in Brisbane following the conclusion of The Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship.
The Qantas Wallabies team to play New Zealand in The Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup opener at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday night (kick-off: 8pm AEST) is:
15. Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels)
14. Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs)
13. Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs)
12. Anthony Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
11. Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)
10. Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds, vice-captain)
8. Scott Higginbotham (Queensland Reds)
7. David Pocock (Western Force, captain)
6. Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs)
5. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force)
4. Sitaleki Timani (NSW Waratahs)
3. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
2. Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs)
1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
16. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
17. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
18. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
19. Radike Samo (Queensland Reds)
20. Michael Hooper (Brumbies)
21. Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels)
22. Drew Mitchell (NSW Waratahs)
Australia v New Zealand – Historical Notes
- This is the 168th match of a trans-Tasman rivalry that dates back to 1903 when New Zealand won the inaugural meeting 22-3 in Sydney.
- This tally includes the 24 matches played between 1920 and 1928 when NSW represented Australia. The ARU accords these matches Test status although the NZRU doesn’t include them in its records.
- Of the 167 games played between the two nations, New Zealand has won 115 and Australia 47, with five draws – the most recent of which occurred in Brisbane 24 years ago, when the two teams finished at 19-19 in the second match of the 1988 series.
- There have been 58 matches between the teams since the last drawn game.
- This is the 67th Test to have been played in Sydney dating back to the maiden trans-Tasman Test 109 years ago. Australia has won 22 of these and drawn another two but lost 42. These figures include 16 games where NSW participated representing the country between 1920 and 1928, for four wins and 12 defeats.
- ANZ Stadium has been the sole Bledisloe Cup venue in Sydney for 13 years. This is the 12th trans-Tasman Test to have been played in that time. Australia has won six of the previous matches and New Zealand five.
- New Zealand has won the last two Bledisloe Cup Tests at ANZ Stadium by a solitary point – 19-18 in 2009 and 23-22 a year later.
- Both Australia and New Zealand posted their highest winning scores in the 167-game rivalry at ANZ Stadium: Australia winning 34-19 in 2008, while New Zealand won 50-21 in 2003.
- Australia posted a record 28-7 win over New Zealand when the first trans-Tasman Test was played at the stadium in 1999. A year later, the two teams played the ‘Match of the Century’ as the All Blacks won a thrilling 39-35 victory in the last moment.
- Last year’s 19-point win over South Africa snapped a sequence of four consecutive losses for Australia at the ground – three of which had been conceded by one-point, to New Zealand in 2009 and 2010 and England earlier in 2010. The fourth loss was the surprise defeat by Samoa in last year’s Test-season opener.
- The first Test match to be played at the ground, which opened in 1999, saw Australia beat England 22-15.
- Australia has played 30 previous Tests against all-comers at ANZ Stadium, winning 22 and losing eight (a 73% winning ratio). One of the losses was 17-20 after extra time in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final against England.
- For three straight Tests through 2009 and 2010, Matt Giteau was the only Australian player to score points in Tests at ANZ Stadium. Giteau scored 22 against France and 18 against New Zealand in 2009, and then 20 against England in 2010. The sequence was finally broken when James O’Connor scored Australia’s opening try, 15 minutes into the Bledisloe Cup Test later in 2010. Just for good measure, Giteau signed off with 18 points in his final Test appearance at ANZ Stadium, during last year’s loss to Samoa.
- The Bledisloe Cup was donated by the then Governor General of New Zealand, Lord Bledisloe, for competition between the two countries in 1931.
Australia won the trophy for the first time in 1934, beating New Zealand 25-11 in Sydney.
- Australia has not held the Bledisloe Cup since it was relinquished in 2003 during a nil-2 series loss to the then John Mitchell and Robbie Deans-coached All Blacks.
The Wallabies last ‘won’ a Bledisloe Cup series against New Zealand 2-nil in 2001. None of the current Australian players have featured in a winning series against the All Blacks.
- Australia has split its last four Tests with New Zealand two-apiece. 2012 sees two of the three Bledisloe Tests played on Australian soil. Since 2008, three four-match series (2008, 2009 & 2010) and a two-match series (2011) have been played. To win the trophy, Australia must ‘win’ the series, as a drawn result sees the Cup retained by the holder in each instance.
- Last year’s 25-20 win over New Zealand in Brisbane was Australia’s 47th Test win against the All Blacks. Three more would make Australia the first country, of the 24 New Zealand has played; to have achieved 50 ‘Test’ wins against the All Blacks.
- Just two players – David Campese (8) and Matthew Burke (7) have scored more than the six tries that Adam Ashley-Cooper has posted against the All Blacks. Stirling Mortlock and Lote Tuqiri (both nine) are the only Australians to have scored more than the eight tries Ashley-Cooper has posted in the annual Southern Hemisphere championship formerly known as the Tri Nations.
- Saturday night’s match represents the inaugural game in the new four-way Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship which, for the first time, includes Argentina. Australia and New Zealand also played the maiden match in the Tri Nations, with the All Blacks winning 43-6 at Wellington in 1996.
ANZ Stadium – Background Notes
• Became the fifth venue to host Test matches in Sydney following on from the Sydney Showground, the Sydney Cricket Ground, Concord Oval and the Sydney Football Stadium.
• Was the home of the 2000 Sydney Olympics (for which the stadium was constructed), and also hosted the opening game, semi-finals, the Bronze Final and the 2003 Rugby World Cup final.
• Has also been the home venue to the NRL rugby league grand final since 1999.
• Crowds of over 100,000 attended the first two Bledisloe Cup Tests at the venue in 1999 and 2000.
• As well as its 12 previous Tests against Australia, New Zealand also played Wales and France at the ground during the 2003 Rugby World Cup, winning both matches during a tournament in which the All Blacks finished third.
Australia v New Zealand @ ANZ Stadium
1999: Australia 28, New Zealand 7
2000: New Zealand 39, Australia 35
2001: Australia 29, New Zealand 26
2002: Australia 16, New Zealand 14
2003: New Zealand 50, Australia 21
2003: Australia 22, New Zealand 10 (RWC semi-final)
2004: Australia 23, New Zealand 18
2005: New Zealand 30, Australia 13
2008: Australia 34, New Zealand 19
2009: New Zealand 19, Australia 18
2010: New Zealand 23, Australia 22
Other Qantas Wallabies Tests at ANZ Stadium
1999: Australia 22, England 15
2000: Australia 26, South Africa 6
2001: Australia 29, British & Irish Lions 23
2002: Australia 31, France 25
2003: Australia 30, Wales 10
2003: Australia 24, Argentina 8 (RWC)
2003: England 20, Australia 17 (aet – RWC Final)
2004: Australia 34, Scotland 13
2005: Australia 74, Samoa 7
2005: Australia 30, South Africa 12
2006: Australia 34, England 3
2006: Australia 20, South Africa 18
2007: Australia 29, Wales 23
2007: Australia 25, South Africa 17
2008: Australia 34, France 13
2009: Australia 22, France 6
2010: England 21, Australia 20
2011: Samoa 32, Australia 23
2011: Australia 39, South Africa 20