Australia coach Michael Cheika has sprung a surprise by dropping blindside flanker Scott Fardy from his starting XV for Saturday’s Test with New Zealand in Sydney.
Fardy has started in all but one Test since Cheika took over the national coaching job, a crucial part of the Wallabies’ run to a World Cup Final, and will come off the bench for the Bledisloe clash.
The Brumbies flanker has been replaced in the side by Ben McCalman, set to start his first Test since running on at number eight in last year’s World Cup quarter-final win over Scotland.
Australia’s back row reshuffle means that Sean McMahon has missed out on the team altogether, after starting at openside in the last two Tests in June, with Fardy and Dean Mumm the utility forwards on the bench.
Cheika has opted to stick with the unorthodox combination of Michael Hooper and David Pocock at seven and eight, reuniting the pair for the first time since the opening June Test against England.
Returned Europe-based players Will Genia, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Matt Giteau will all reprise their roles from last year’s World Cup, in their first appearance on home soil this year.
Ashley-Cooper will team up with Dane Haylett-Petty on the wings, with the Force full-back retaining his post after an impressive June series, the only June debutant to do so.
Genia’s start will be his first game of rugby since January, undergoing knee surgery after just four games for the French club, with the former Queensland Red to share the halfback duties with Nick Phipps.
Bernard Foley has bested Quade Cooper in the starting fly-half spot, with Cheika opting for the same playmaking spine that he took to the World Cup Final last year and Cooper missing the 23 despite showing improvement on his return from France.
Cheika has kept his word and stuck with Israel Folau at full-back for the Bledisloe opener, with Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua and Rob Horne the cover for the backs in the Sydney Test.
The lock combination of Rob Simmons and Kane Douglas will have its first real test on home soil, with Douglas not returning to the Wallabies fold until last year’s World Cup.
Brumbies prop Allan Alaalatoa is in line to become the sixth Wallabies debutant of the season, named on the bench for the first time.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Dane Haylett-Petty, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Rob Horne
Date: Saturday, August 20
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 20:05 local (10:05 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)