Toomua leads Wallaby rookies
Thu, 15 Aug 2013 06:20
We could have gone many different ways at flyhalf
Flyhalf Matt Toomua will make his debut for Australia, while Quade Cooper was named on the bench for Saturday's opening Rugby Championship match against New Zealand in Sydney.
Toomua was given the starting No.10 assignment ahead of Cooper by new Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie, for the match doubling up as a Bledisloe Cup encounter.
There are five uncapped players in the matchday 23.
However, Toomua is the sole debutant in McKenzie's inaugural Test starting line-up.
Fellow uncapped Brumbies teammates Scott Sio, Scott Fardy, Nic White and Tevita Kuridrani have all earned places on the bench.
Cooper, who was coached by McKenzie at the Reds in Super Rugby, was not called up after being overlooked by former Australia coach Robbie Deans in the series against the British and Irish Lions.
Israel Folau will start his fourth Test match on the wing, with James O'Connor and Jesse Mogg among 10 Brumbies players in the team.
The selection of five uncapped players marks a new era under McKenzie and is reward for their year-long performances in a Brumbies side that only marginally went down to New Zealand's Chiefs in the Super Rugby Final a fortnight ago.
They'll be expected to play an integral role in a new-look Wallabies line-up that includes eight changes to the starting XV which took the field for Australia in their final Test against The British & Irish Lions in July.
Those changes comprise of Ben Mowen shifting to No.8 and James O'Connor to the wing, along with the inclusion of prop James Slipper, lock Rob Simmons, flanks Hugh McMeniman and Michael Hooper, fullback Jesse Mogg and Toomua.
All five potential debutants have experienced unique journeys on their way to winning selection in the Wallabies line-up for Saturday night.
For Toomua, his selection has been four years in the making after the talented 23-year-old made the briefest of appearances for Australia in an uncapped midweek clash against the Cardiff Blues in 2009.
Toomua lasted just four minutes when a broken jaw ended his game prematurely, setting the tone for a frustrating next three seasons where he was limited to just 28 Super Rugby games heading into 2013.
Having enjoyed an injury-free pre-season, Toomua has stepped up to the next level during the past year and was an integral member to both the Brumbies' Super Rugby Finals Series success and also their historic midweek victory over The British & Irish Lions in June.
"We could have gone many different ways at flyhalf as we have a lot of good options there, but in the end we see some great tactical opportunities starting the game with Matt," McKenzie said.
"It's obvious that each of our playmaking options have different styles so it's important that we're looking to get the best out of their individual strengths at different stages of the game.
"To his credit, Matt has had a really good season and he has been playing up until last week in a team that made the Super Rugby Final. He's done a lot of good things and there isn't any reason he doesn't deserve a go."
While just 21 years of age, Sio flashed enormous potential in his second year of Super Rugby to earn a place on the Wallabies bench.
However his rapid rise has not come unexpectedly, with Sio continuing his family's long Rugby tradition after father and prop Tevita 'David' Sio represented Samoa in the 1991 Rugby World Cup.
It will also be a special occasion for Sio and his family after the 116kg prop was initially named in the Wallabies squad to take on The British & Irish Lions only to miss out on matchday selection throughout the series.
Joining Sio on the bench is fellow 21-year-old youngster Tevita Kuridrani, who was a deserving winner of the 'Most Outstanding Young Talent' award at the Brumbies annual awards ceremony at the weekend.
Also in just his second year of Super Rugby, Kuridrani quickly solidified his place in the starting line-up with an emphasis on strong ball running highlighted when he scored the winning try in the Brumbies upset victory over the Bulls in the Super Rugby semifinal.
While Kuridrani just pips Sio as the youngest member of the potential debutants, it's 29-year-old back row forward Scott Fardy who sits at the other end of the spectrum.
It has been an unlikely journey for Fardy to Wallabies selection after he left Australia for Japanese club Kamaishi Seawaves in 2009 having never played a game of Super Rugby despite spending a season with the Western Force Academy in 2008.
However, after being forced to return to Australia when his village was wiped out by the 2011 tsunami, Fardy took up an Extended Playing Squad contract with the Brumbies only to be offered a fulltime contracted midway through the 2012 season.
He has taken massive strides since returning to Australia and has shown the ability to be equally productive as either a back row forward or lock.
Scrumhalf Nic White has been waiting in the wings for a number of years to receive an opportunity for Australia after having sat on the bench for all three of the Wallabies wins over Wales last June before a shoulder injury ended any hopes of making a Test debut during the Spring Tour.
White returned to full health in 2013 but was overlooked for Australia's recent series against The British & Irish Lions only to feature heavily in the Brumbies playoff run which ended just short of a dream finish in the Super Rugby Final.
Australia: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Scott Fardy, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
Date: Saturday, August 17
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 20.05 AEST (22.05 NZ time; 10.05 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
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