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Qantas Wallabies scrumhalf Will Genia will become just the 39th player to reach the prestigious 50-Test milestone for Australia in Saturday night’s third Bledisloe Cup match against New Zealand at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
It’s a deserving honour for the talented Queensland Reds playmaker as he joins Qantas Wallabies greats George Gregan (139) and Nick Farr Jones (63) as only the third Australian scrumhalf to accomplish the milestone.
Saturday night will also be a special occasion for NSW Waratahs winger Peter Betham as he makes his Test debut for Australia in one of the four changes made to the starting line-up which recently scored seven tries in a convincing 54-17 victory over Argentina.
His selection caps of a stellar year for the 24-year-old flyer and follows the midweek withdrawal of fellow outside backs Joe Tomane and Chris Feauai-Sautia due to minor hamstring injuries.
ACT Brumbies playmaker Matt Toomua has also earned his third starting appearance for Australia and will replace injured teammate Christian Leali’ifano (ankle) in the number 12 jersey.
The unavailability of Scott Fardy (eye) has resulted in a re-shuffle of the team’s backrow with Ben McCalman earning a promotion from the bench to No.8, meaning vice-captain Ben Mowen will shift to the side of the scrum at blindside flanker.
On the bench, NSW Waratahs backrower Dave Dennis and versatile Queensland Reds back Mike Harris are both in line to receive their first opportunities in the green and gold jersey for 2013.
Qantas Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie congratulated Genia and Betham on their respective milestones.
“Will has been an amazing servant of Australian Rugby for a long time now so it’s extremely pleasing for him to reach 50 games, a huge career milestone in any player’s career,” McKenzie said.
“He has an incredible drive to see Australia succeed at this level and you’ll no doubt see that in his performance against the All Blacks on Saturday night.
“I think I speak for everyone when I congratulate Will on reaching the prestigious 50-game honour.
“It will also be a hugely memorable occasion for Peter, who gets the opportunity to experience his first taste of Test Rugby in what will be a very hostile environment against a talented New Zealand team.
“The reality of Rugby is that most players get an opportunity at the misfortune of one of their teammates, but it’s about what each individual does with that opportunity that counts the most.
“That doesn’t just apply to Peter but to a number of guys who are receiving a chance this week. There is no better way to make your mark than by playing well against the All Blacks.”
McKenzie said his squad was also looking forward to the challenge of a third Test against the All Blacks, who are aiming to win a record 30th consecutive game on home soil in New Zealand.
“The All Blacks are the most consistent team in world Rugby and their record proves just how formidable they are when playing at home in front of their fans,” he said.
“History indicates that playing the All Blacks is a significant challenge, but you want to be measuring yourself against the best performing teams in the world and we are very much looking forward to that on Saturday night.
“It was pleasing to see us take a step in the right direction against Argentina, but the test for us now is to produce that form week-in and week-out.
“At this level you need to back-up, play consistently and find solutions to win every game, which has been a large focus for us heading into this match.”
Betham will become the 12th player to debut for Australia in 2013, joining: Scott Fardy, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali’ifano, Jesse Mogg, Ben Mowen, Scott Sio, Matt Toomua, and Nic White.
The Qantas Wallabies side to play New Zealand in the third Bledisloe Cup Test at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday 19 October is:
1. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
2. Stephen Moore (ACT Brumbies)
3. Ben Alexander (ACT Brumbies)
4. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
5. James Horwill (c – Queensland Reds)
6. Ben Mowen (vc - ACT Brumbies)
7. Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs)
8. Ben McCalman (Western Force)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)*
10. Quade Cooper (Queensland Reds)
11. Peter Betham (NSW Waratahs)**
12. Matt Toomua (ACT Brumbies)
13. Tevita Kuridrani (ACT Brumbies)
14. Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs)
15. Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs)
16. Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
17. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
18. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
19. Sitaleki Timani (NSW Waratahs)
20. Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs)
21. Nic White (ACT Brumbies)
22. Mike Harris (Queensland Reds)
23. Bernard Foley (NSW Waratahs)
*50 games for Australia