McMahon to make test debut for Australia vs. Wales
SYDNEY (AP) — Flanker Sean McMahon will make his test debut Saturday in place of injured Scott Fardy in the Australia team to face Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
The 20-year-old Melbourne Rebels blindside — Australia’s Super Rugby Rookie of the Year, takes his place with No. 8 Ben McCalman and captain and openside flanker Michael Hooper in a reshaped backrow.
Coach Michael Cheika made two changes to the side that played New Zealand in Australia’s most-recent test three weeks ago. McMahon and McCalman — who replaces the injured Scott Higginbotham — join an otherwise stable unit for the first test of Australia’s November tour, played for the James Bevan Trophy.
Cheika said McMahon took his chance in last weekend’s match 40-36 win over the Barbarians to stake a claim to test selection.
“Going into the Barbarians match it was made clear that players had an opportunity to push their way into the test team with a strong performance,” Cheika said. “Sean made the most of his opportunity and brought great work-rate and physicality to our game.
“This selection also recognizes the outstanding year he has had at all levels of the game, and he thoroughly deserves the chance to debut for Australia.”
McMahon is one of two uncapped players chosen in Australia’s 23-man test squad. Western Force prop Tetera Faulkner has a chance of making his test debut if he holds his place on a bench which currently has nine players, to be trimmed to eight by match day.
The 26-year-old Faulkner is a former Australian Schoolboys, under-19 and under-20 representative who has played 29 Super Rugby matches since his Force debut in 2011. He can prop both sides of the scrum.
The extended bench named by Cheika includes hooker James Hanson, props Faulkner and Ben Alexander, locks James Horwill and Will Skelton, backrower Matt Hodgson, scrumhalf Will Genia, flyhalf Quade Cooper and winger Rob Horne. One player will be omitted in the lead-up to game day.
Cheika said the team was looking forward to the first test of the Spring Tour.
“I’ve been really pleased with attitude and commitment of the team and by how they have embraced a new environment and way of doing things,” he said. “Everyone has worked really hard on preparing themselves in the best possible way and we’re all excited about the opportunity to represent Australia and give our absolute best on Saturday.”
Australia’s tour continues after Saturday’s match with tests against France, Ireland and England.
Australia: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevenia Kuridrani, Christian Leali’ifano, Joe Tomane, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper (captain), Sean McMahon, Rob Simmons, Sam Carter, Sekope Kepu, Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper.
Reserves: James Hanson, Tetera Faulkner, Ben Alexander, James Horwill, Will Skelton, Matt Hodgson, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Rob Horne.