Will Genia was yesterday dumped from the Wallabies squad to play France in the first Test and James Horwill was relegated to the bench, with Nic White and Bernard Foley forming a new halves pairing.
Experienced halfback Genia failed even to make the bench for the clash in Brisbane on Saturday, with coach Ewen McKenzie saying form had been critical in his choices.
“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,” he said.
“This year we’re in a particularly strong position whereby so many of our players have been performing well for their provinces,” he added. “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.”
With Genia out, ACT Brumbies star White is to start at halfback, while Foley has been given the five-eighth berth ahead of NSW Waratahs teammate Kurtley Beale, who is on the bench.
McKenzie also handed a Test debut to Brumbies lock Sam Carter alongside Rob Simmons in the second row. Former skipper Horwill is only a replacement, paying the price for poor form with the Queensland Reds.
Wycliff Palu claimed the No. 8 spot ahead of Scott Higginbotham and Ben McCalman for his 50th appearance, while prop James Slipper also earned a 50th cap.
McKenzie said Genia was understandably disappointed, particularly at being left out of the squad altogether, with Nick Phipps named as the replacement halfback.
However, he 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 game plan on the night,” McKenzie added.
“They’re also established goal-kickers and you can never underestimate the importance of this skill at an international level,” he said.
Stephen Moore is to captain the side for the first time, leading an experienced front row of Slipper and Sekope Kepu, while Carter partners lineout-caller Simmons in the two lock positions.
Carter is the son of former Wallaby David Carter, who earned a reputation as an uncompromising back-rower. He said he was shocked at making the team ahead of Horwill, who took the news well.
“He’s a class act. Anything I can learn off him is obviously a bonus heading into this Test. There was no hard feelings,” Carter told reporters.
In the back row, vice-captain and openside flanker Michael Hooper revives his partnership with blindside flanker Scott Fardy, alongside Palu.
Matt Toomua is to combine 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.
Australia play France in three Tests beginning in Brisbane on Saturday, followed by Melbourne on June 14 and Sydney on June 21.
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