Australia coach Robbie Deans has retained the same backline from the team that drew 18-18 with the All Blacks last month, but made three changes to his pack for tomorrow’s encounter with France at the Stade de France in Paris.
Deans, who has had to deal with a lengthy injury list this season, was forced to replace Scott Higginbotham after the blindside flanker was banned for two matches for headbutting New Zealand captain Richie McCaw in the Brisbane Test.
Dave Dennis moves up from the bench into the back row alongside No. 8 Wycliff Palu and openside flanker Mike Hooper, who retains his place in the side while David Pocock completes his recovery from injury.
Lock Kane Douglas and prop Sekope Kepu are the other changes, replacing the injured Sitaleki Timani and James Slipper respectively.
“Obviously you adjust things a little bit to cater for a particular opposition, but we have had the benefit of some continuity leading into this match, which hasn’t always been the case for us this year,” Deans said.
Slipper is relegated to the replacements bench, which is eight strong for the first time after the introduction of regulations allowing a second position for a prop.
Paddy Ryan takes that supplementary role and could become Australia’s 13th new cap this season if he gets onto the field against last year’s World Cup finalists.
Lock Rob Simmons, experienced hooker Stephen Moore and evergreen No. 8 Radike Samo all return from injury to take their places on the bench for what is expected to be a bruising encounter in Paris.
The versatile Berrick Barnes also returns from injury to take up his place as one of only two replacement backs in place of Drew Mitchell, who scored a hat-trick when Australia beat France 59-16 on their last trip to Paris in 2010.
The Wallabies, who are second in the world rankings and keen to retain the position ahead of the seedings for the 2015 World Cup being decided, will be chasing a sixth straight victory over France this weekend.
Injured winger Digby Ioane (knee), flanker Pocock (knee), prop Ben Alexander (wrist) and lock Timani (lower back) are all expected to be in contention for next week’s Test against England at Twickenham in London.