Deans rings the changes for Australia

Australia coach Robbie Deans has made four changes to Australia’s starting side to play Saturday’s historic Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand in Japan

Australia coach Robbie Deans has made four changes to Australia’s starting side to play Saturday’s historic Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand in Japan.

Wingers Digby Ioane and Peter Hynes, centre Ryan Cross and number eight Wycliff Palu are the new faces from the run-on combination which lost the closing Tri-Nations match in New Zealand last month.

Adam Ashley-Cooper has reverted from centre to full-back in the place of James O’Connor.

O’Connor is listed among the run-on reserves, alongside George Smith while Matt Dunning also makes his return from injury and takes his place amongst the substitutes.

Dunning and Ioane, who have both been sidelined by injury this year, have not featured for the Wallabies since last year’s Spring Tour of Europe.

“Returning Adam to full-back helps with the balance of the side,” Deans said.

“It is not a slight on the performance of James O’Connor at all. He’s already had a big year, which it must be remembered has been his first at this level. We’re wary of over-exposing James and will be looking to manage his involvements through this tour.”

Ashley-Cooper’s relocation, plus the absence of former captain Stirling Mortlock due to a torn calf, has opened the way for Cross to return at centre, where he played during the Test win over the All Blacks in Sydney last year.

Saturday will be his 16th Test, and his third start of the year, after Cross previously featured in the run on XV against Italy at Melbourne and South Africa at Perth.

“Ryan has worked hard on the training paddock to gain this opportunity,” Deans said.

Likewise Hynes and Palu gain their third starts of the campaign, with Hynes having featured in the run on XV against Italy (Melbourne) and South Africa (Perth) while Palu started in the first two Tri-Nations matches in Auckland and Cape Town.

The addition of Cross and Palu provides the Wallabies with added size in the midfield, and amongst the loose trio, where Palu has swapped duties with Smith from the Wellington Test.

He will combine with openside David Pocock and the new Wallabies skipper Rocky Elsom, who becomes Australia’s 76th Test captain.

While the match will be a big occasion personally for Australia’s new skipper, he says it is a massive event for the entire touring party.

“None of us were happy with our most recent performance,” Elsom said. “This is the first Bledisloe Cup Test to have been played in Japan and our final opportunity against the All Blacks for the year, so it’s vital for us to produce a complete performance.”

Elsom added it was important for the confidence of his touring group that they maximised their opportunities this weekend.

“That’s not something we have done of late, and we know more than anyone that it is critical,” Elsom said.

Deans echoed his skipper’s sentiments, saying there was still plenty for the Wallabies to play for even though the Bledisloe Cup could no longer be won by Australia.

“The significance of the occasion – with it being the first Bledisloe Cup game to be played in front of a Japanese audience – demands a spectacle, and I’m sure that you will see that,” Deans said.

“These are two proud nations, and the players are proud to be putting on their national jumpers. I’m sure that will reflect in their performance.”

Australia squad: Adam Ashley-Cooper; Peter Hynes, Ryan Cross, Berrick Barnes, Digby Ioane; Matt Giteau, Will Genia; Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Rocky Elsom, Mark Chisholm, James Horwill, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.

Reserves: Stephen Moore, Matt Dunning, Dean Mumm, George Smith, Luke Burgess, Drew Mitchell, James O’Connor.

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