Sheehan finally gets the call
Sheehan finally gets the callSHARE
Thirty-three-year-old Western Force scrumhalf Brett Sheehan will start his first Test match, six years after his international debut.
Sheehan was on Thursday named in the Wallabies side that will tackle Italy in Florence on Saturday.
Sheehan will earn his seventh cap, but a maiden starting role – replacing Nick Phipps, who moves to a position on the bench.
Wallaby coach Robbie Deans looked to freshen his playing group ahead of the team's penultimate year-end outing of a demanding 2012.
The other changes to the starting XV from that which regained the Cook Cup by beating England in London last weekend see Drew Mitchell swap roles with Digby Ioane, with the latter reverting to the bench after he returned from injury in a starting position at Twickenham.
Blindside flank Scott Higginbotham returns from a two-game suspension, having joined the touring party last Saturday, while Stephen Moore gains his first start since the second Bledisloe Cup Test of the year in August, taking over from Tatafu Polota Nau who will provide impact off the bench.
Deans says the changes are designed to bring energy to the playing group as the year-end tour moves into its third Test, while spreading the work load.
This is illustrated by the lightening of the playing duties for last weekend's blindside flank Dave Dennis and Polota Nau, who have been two of Australia's busiest forwards in 2012 aside from skipper Nathan Sharpe – the only Wallaby to start in every Test of the year.
Deans says all four alterations to the starting combination from that which beat England 20-14 had been made to inject fresh momentum into the side, and could in no way be construed as being disrespectful towards this weekend's opponents.
Mitchell and Moore both figured off the bench during last weekend's success where Australia held England scoreless through the second period whilst over-turning a halftime deficit for the third time this year.
"No one should doubt the impact that Brett Sheehan has made since he has joined the squad either. Nick [Phipps] did well last weekend against England and he is still in a position to contribute this weekend but Brett has worked hard and has earned this opportunity," Deans said.
"If you look at the men who are coming in, they are all seasoned Test players. Drew [Mitchell] is one of the most experienced Test wingers in Australian history; Stephen Moore is our most capped hooker, while Scott [Higginbotham] was the Test incumbent in his position until the suspension.
"They are not the first side to have suffered in that manner against the All Blacks," Deans noted.
"If you look at the game in its entirety as I'm sure Jacques [Italy coach, Jacques Brunel] will have done, there was a lot of good in it for them. I've no doubt they will be looking forward to another opportunity this weekend.
"It has been a notable feature of recent performances that the Italians are looking to play with a bit more width and use the ball more, expanding on their usual strength in the physical exchanges."
Strong at the set-piece, Italy has traditionally troubled Australia, most recently in last year's Rugby World Cup tie between the two nations, where the Wallabies required a strong second half to shake off the Azzurri in a 32-6 victory at North Harbour Stadium.
The Wallabies are appearing in Florence for the second time, having visited two years ago when a 32-14 win was sealed by a late try from then skipper Rocky Elsom.
Australia: 15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Mike Harris, 23 Digby Ioane.
Date: Saturday, 24 November
Venue: Stade Artemio, Florence
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT; 24.00 AEST)
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Neil Paterson (Scotland)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)