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Horwill to play 50th test for Australia

June 10, 2014

GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Queensland Reds lock and former captain James Horwill will play his 50th match for Australia in Saturday’s second rugby test against France in Melbourne.

Coach Ewen McKenzie made three personnel changes Tuesday to the starting XV from the opening test with hooker Stephen Moore (knee), lock Sam Carter (ankle) and backrower Wycliff Palu (ankle) all ruled out with injuries.

Horwill was named on the bench for last Saturday’s 50-23 win over France in Brisbane.

On Monday, flanker Michael Hooper was Wallabies captain for the second test, taking over from Moore, who suffered a season-ending left knee injury during the Brisbane match. The 22-year-old Hooper became Australia’s youngest captain in 67 years when he took over from Moore in the 15th minute.

Since McKenzie took over as coach last year, Rocky Elsom, Horwill (three times), David Pocock, Will Genia (twice) and Ben Mowen have all had turns as Australia skipper, and in each case their captaincy was short-lived due to injury or loss of form. Moore is now added to the unlucky list.

The Wallabies said medical staff will take a cautious approach with Palu, who sustained the ankle injury in his 50th match. He is expected to return for the final game of the series in Sydney on June 21.

Replacing Moore is New South Wales Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, while Horwill comes in for Carter and Western Force’s Ben McCalman will play at No. 8.

Three players could make their test debuts — Force hooker Nathan Charles and the Melbourne Rebels duo of Laurie Weeks and Luke Jones have been chosen on the bench.

McKenzie said his squad must improve if they are to clinch the series on Saturday.

“France is one of the few one teams in the world who can make a lot of changes and still turn things around quickly in one week,” McKenzie said. “They never stay down for long and will be using the disappointment of the opening test to motivate them for the second game.”

France’s side to be named Wednesday should include players who missed the first test through injury or to rest after playing in the Top 14 final between Toulon and Castres a week earlier.

“We will have a team with more balance and more experience. Certain (players) showed their limits at this level (last week),” coach Philippe Saint-Andre said.

Expected to start after not featuring last Saturday are captain Thierry Dusautoir, the Toulouse back-rower sidelined with a left arm injury, and Toulon center Mathieu Bastareaud.

Other possible changes to the run-on side from the bench are Clermont halfback Morgan Parra and Castres teammates Remi Tales and Brice Dulin.

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Australia team: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins, Bernard Foley, Nic White; Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper (captain), Scott Fardy, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper. Reserves: Nathan Charles, Pek Cowan, Laurie Weeks, Luke Jones, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale, Pat McCabe.

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