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Toomua to make international debut for Wallabies

August 15, 2013

SYDNEY (AP) — Flyhalf Matt Toomua will make his test debut for Australia while Quade Cooper was named on the bench for Saturday’s opening Rugby Championship match against New Zealand.

Toomua, the only new test cap starting for Australia, was given the starting No. 10 assignment on Thursday by new Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie for the Bledisloe Cup encounter at the former Olympic stadium.

Cooper fell out of favor with McKenzie’s predecessor Robbie Deans and was overlooked for the series against the British and Irish Lions.

He might have expected that the appointment of McKenzie — who coached him at Queensland in Super Rugby — would provide an upturn in his selection prospects, but it was Toomua who got the flyhalf role, as one of ten ACT Brumbies in the squad.

James O’Connor and Jesse Mogg were among the other Brumbies players named, along with former rugby league and Australian Rules player Israel Folau, who will start his fourth test. Christian Lealiifano and Adam Ashley-Cooper are in the centers.

There are eight changes to the starting XV which lost the third and deciding match to the Lions last month.

Ben Mowen was shifted to No.8 and O’Connor to the wing, while prop James Slipper, lock Rob Simmons, flankers Hugh McMeniman and Michael Hooper, fullback Mogg and Toomua were all promoted. The side will be captained by lock James Horwill.

Four uncapped players will start Saturday off the bench, all from the Brumbies: Scott Sio, Scott Fardy, Nic White and Tevita Kuridrani.

“When we picked the team we didn’t spend one minute looking at how many test caps a player had or the number of debutants,” McKenzie said. “It was picked on performance over a sustained period of time and on how we want to play the game.”

Toomua, 23, made a brief appearance for Australia in an uncapped mid-week match against the Cardiff Blues in 2009. But he lasted just four minutes before suffering a broken jaw, and he was limited to just 28 Super Rugby matches through the next three seasons.

“We could have gone many different ways at flyhalf as we have a lot of good options there, but in the end we see some great tactical opportunities starting the game with Matt,” McKenzie said.

New Zealand named its team earlier Thursday, with Ma’a Nonu passed fit to start at inside center for his 80th test.

The 31-year-old Nonu has played Super Rugby for the Wellington-based Hurricanes, Auckland-based Blues and Dunedin-based Highlanders over the past three years. But after leaving the Highlanders at the end of last season, he has not been able to find a New Zealand team willing to take him on.

Captain Richie McCaw will return from an eight-month sabbatical to play his first major match of the season and to lead New Zealand in his 117th test. McCaw took a break from all rugby after the test against England at Twickenham last December.

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Australia: Jesse Mogg, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Lealiifano, James O’Connor, Matt Toomua, Will Genia; Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Hugh McMeniman, James Horwill (captain), Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper. Res: Saia Fainga’a, Scott Sio, Sekope Kepu, Scott Fardy, Liam Gill, Nic White, Quade Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani.

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