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By Waratahs Rugby Media Unit
Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has made eight changes to the starting line-up for Saturday night’s Test against Wales. The inclusion of five new forwards and three new backs increases the number of HSBC Waratahs in the starting XV to seven.
Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sekope Kepu will form an all-New South Wales front-row, whilst debutant flanker Dave Dennis will hope to earn his second cap from the bench, should he take the field in Brisbane for the first Castrol EDGE Wales Tour Test match for the James Bevan Trophy.
The changes mean loose-head prop Benn Robinson makes his first appearance since the record breaking 59-16 win over France that bookended the 2010 Spring Tour, having been forced to miss all of last year’s Test programme due to a knee injury.
Fellow prop Sekope Kepu is also back after an injury enforced break, where an eye injury sustained in the Rugby World Cup semi-final ruled him out of the back-to-back Tests against Saturday night’s opponents which ended the 2011 season.
Tatafu Polota Nau, who lines up between them at hooker, is one of nine members of the starting XV who also featured during Australia’s 24-18 win over Wales in Cardiff last December.
At the back of the scrum, Wycliff Palu returns at No 8, for what will be just his third Test outing since 2009 after an unfortunate run of injuries, whilst changes to the backline mean Adam Ashley-Cooper (fullback) and Rob Horne (centre) line up alongside NSW teammate Berrick Barnes.
The return of Palu necessitates a positional change which sees Queensland Reds’ Scott Higginbotham move from No 8 to the blindside flank, with Dennis moving to the bench.
Wales arrived in Australia as the reigning Six Nations champions, having completed its second Grand Slam of the European heavyweights in five years during this year’s competition.
The Welsh also finished fourth at last year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, but lost back-to-back Test matches to Australia in the space of 43 days at the end of last year, with the Qantas Wallabies’ 24-18 win in Cardiff at the start of December retaining the James Bevan Trophy for the third time in succession.
The Welsh team which beat France 16-9 in Cardiff in March at its most recent outing, to secure the country’s 11th Grand Slam (only England has won more, with 12), featured just four personnel changes from that which Australia defeated in December.
This year’s three-Test series is a first between the two nations, on what is the seventh visit to Australia by the Welsh national side.
The Wallabies have won eight of the nine Tests played between the two sides in Australia, with the sole Welsh victory coming in the country’s debut on Australian soil when Wales won 19-16 at Sydney in 1969.
Saturday night’s match will be the fifth played between the two nations in Brisbane.
The Qantas Wallabies team to play in the first Castrol EDGE Wales Tour Test match for the James Bevan Trophy at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday (kick-off: 8pm AEST) is:
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs)
14. Joe Tomane (Brumbies)
13. Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs)
12. Pat McCabe (Brumbies)
11. Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)
10. Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
8. Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs)
7. David Pocock (captain, Western Force)
6. Scott Higginbotham (Queensland Reds)
5. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force)
4. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
3. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (NSW Waratahs)
1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
Run on Reserves:
16. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
17. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
18. Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs)
19. Michael Hooper (Brumbies)
20. Nic White (Brumbies)
21. Anthony Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
22. Mike Harris (Queensland Reds)
Sat Mar 19, 7:40PM AEDT
Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney