FORWARDS: James Slipper, Stephen Moore (c), Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Sam Carter (debut), Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu
BACKS: Nick White, Bernard Foley, Nick Cummins, Matt Toomua, Tevita Kuridrani, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Israel Folau
BENCH: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Pek Cowan, Paddy Ryan, James Horwill, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale, Pat McCabe
Qantas Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has announced an in-form 23 man line-up for Saturday night’s opening Castrol EDGE France Tour clash against the French at Suncorp Stadium.
Following in the footsteps of his father and former Wallaby David Carter, 24-year-old ACT Brumbies lock Sam Carter will become Wallaby No.879 when he makes his Test debut in the starting line-up on Saturday night.
It will also be a memorable occasion for prop James Slipper and No.8 Wycliff Palu with both set to play their milestone 50th Test match for Australia. For Palu, he will become just the second No.8 in Australian Rugby history to reach the mark, behind only Toutai Kefu (57 games).
McKenzie has also chosen a new playmaking partnership for the Qantas Wallabies opening Test of 2014 with Nic White and Bernard Foley earning their spots at scrumhalf and flyhalf respectively.
It will be White’s third starting opportunity for Australia after playing consecutive matches in the number nine jersey against Argentina and South Africa during the 2013 Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship.
Foley, who earned four caps during his maiden Test season in 2013, has been rewarded for a dominant Super Rugby campaign and will take on the goal-kicking responsibilities in his first starting opportunity for the Qantas Wallabies.
McKenzie said form was critical in finalising his 23 man matchday squad.
“We function in a performance environment and so it’s important to reward those who have consistently played at a high level over the course of the season,” McKenzie said.
“This year we’re in a particularly strong position whereby so many of our players have been performing well for their provinces. The margins are so small but it unfortunately does mean that quality players are going to miss out, which is the case for our opening Test against France.
“However, selection will always be a week-to-week proposition at a Test level and the challenge now is for those players chosen to continue playing at the high level we know they can.”
McKenzie also backed his new playmaking duo to make the most of their opportunity.
“Nic and Bernard are two players who have had a huge influence in the results of their provincial teams over the past two seasons,” he said.
“I’ve also been pleased to see their development as playmakers since getting a taste of Test Rugby last year and you can sense they have a real confidence in running a game.
“We have a very specific style of game we want to play – the Wallaby way – and their two skill-sets complement each other in ensuring we can deliver our gameplan on the night.
“They’re also established goal-kickers and you can never underestimate the importance of this skill at an international level.”
New Qantas Wallabies captain Stephen Moore will lead an experienced front-row of Slipper and Sekope Kepu, while Carter partners lineout-caller Rob Simmons in the two lock positions.
In the backrow, vice-captain and openside flanker Michael Hooper reignites his backrow partnership with blindside flanker Scott Fardy, with powerhouse Wycliff Palu at No.8.
Matt Toomua combines with ACT Brumbies teammate Tevita Kuridrani in the midfield, while there is a consistent look to the back-three in wingers Nick Cummins and Adam Ashley Cooper, along with fullback Israel Folau.