Simmons returns for Wallabies
Simmons returns for WallabiesSHARE
Wallaby forward Rob Simmons has been chosen at blindside flank in the only change made to the Australian starting line-up for Saturday's second year-end Test against Italy at Stadio Olimpico.
A knee injury at training forced Simmons to miss Australia's opening clash of the year-end trip, but he now returns to take the place of fellow injured teammate Scott Fardy, who is unavailable for selection after taking a head knock against England.
While regarded as one of Australia's best locks, Simmons did feature at blindside flank for the Wallabies at various stages of their 2011 World Cup campaign, and has the athletic ability to transition into the role being asked of him on Saturday.
The selection of Simmons on the side of the scrum in combination with locks Sitaleki Timani and James Horwill strengthens the Wallabies set-piece while also providing a physical edge against an abrasive Italian forward pack.
Three further changes have been made on the bench with back row forwards Dave Dennis and Liam Gill, along with wing Joe Tomane, all receiving an opportunity in the matchday squad.
Tomane re-gains selection after injuring himself following a Man of the Match performance against Argentina in Rosario, scoring one and setting up many of the team's seven tries.
Dave Dennis comes back into the side after missing last week's clash against England while Gill gets his first opportunity since coming on as a replacement in Australia's opening three Tests of the Rugby Championship.
No.8 Ben Mowen and flyhalf Quade Cooper maintain their leadership responsibilities as captain and vice-captain respectively.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie said the inclusion of Simmons and the changes on the bench were tactical adjustments made to suit the style of game they are preparing to play on Saturday.
"Most of the Italians' strength is derived through their forwards and that's where they will look to take us on, especially at set-piece. We have to take them on up front," McKenzie said.
"Having Simmo return will benefit us in that regard. He's instrumental in us winning our own ball while we'll be looking for him to put pressure on their line-out, and their scrum.
"Aside from that, he is one of our most athletic and powerful forwards. He has trained very well at blindside flank and it will be interesting to see how he goes with a bit more space.
"However, no matter what position he is in, he'll continue to bring his abrasive style. Currently, he sits in the top two for us in terms of the volume of tackles and also his tackle completions.
"We've also made changes to our bench to allow a few players an opportunity there.
"Joe won our Man of the Match award the last time he played so he has never been too far away from the team.
"Liam is a specialist openside flank which will help Michael Hooper, who has played a lot of Rugby this year. We could also play the two of them on the field later in the game if the circumstances of the game call for it.
"Dave is a jumper and line-out caller, which gives us a good offset should Simmo move into the second row. It will help us keep our line-out intensity across the whole game."
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Rob Simmons, 5 James Horwill, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nic White, 22 Christian Leali'ifano, 23 Joe Tomane.
Date: Saturday, November 9
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Turin
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT; 01.00, Sunday, November 10 AEDT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), John Lacey (Ireland)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)