Ewen McKenzie has named his team for this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup and opening Rugby Championship fixture, with Kurtley Beale taking the fly-half shirt despite having played centre for most of the season for the Waratahs. Teammate Bernard Foley, who has been in sublime form at 10 and started the June tests there, is named on the bench.
Matt Toomua, who led the Brumbies to the Super Rugby semi-finals from fly-half, is named at inside centre – where Beale has been playing all season. Adam Ashley-Cooper takes the 13 shirt, while Rob Horne and Pat McCabe make up a muscular wing duo, with Israel Folau providing the guile from fullback.
Up front Western Force hooker Nathan Charles is given his first start, while Sam Carter returns to the engine room to partner Rob Simmons after making his debut in the first test against France in June. Michael Hooper continues as captain from the back-row.
“Bernard hasn’t put a foot wrong since we chose him in June, but Kurtley has really stepped up his game over the past few months and he’s consistently been one of the Waratahs’ best players every week,” McKenzie said. He’ll bring some additional x-factor to our game. We feel that will suit our two-playmaker framework and ensure we have the right balance in those positions along with Matt Toomua.
“Kurtley’s also an experienced guy who has played 42 Tests, so he will enjoy the added responsibility of wearing the number 10 jersey. He’s got a proven track record at the position at a provincial and Test level, and he has been involved in a number of important wins at fly-half for Australia over the years.
“There were a number of extremely tough selection decisions, especially after the way the team performed against France, however we’re confident we’ve come up with the best squad possible to win on Saturday night.”
Australia team to play New Zealand:
15 Israel Folau, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nic White, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 James Hanson, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Scott Higginbotham, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Bernard Foley, 24 Tevita Kuridrani.
Date: Saturday, August 16
Kick-off: 20:05 local (11:05 BST, 10:05 GMT)
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Referee: Jaco Peyper