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Qantas Wallabies forward Rob Simmons has been chosen at blindside flanker in the only change made to the starting line-up for Saturday’s (Sunday morning 1am AEDT) second Spring Tour Test against Italy at Stadio Olimpico.
A knee injury at training forced Simmons to miss Australia’s opening clash of the Spring Tour but he now returns to take the place of fellow injured teammate Scott Fardy, who is unavailable for selection after taking a head knock against England.
While regarded as one of Australia’s best locks, Simmons did feature at blindside flanker for the Qantas Wallabies at various stages of their 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign, and has the athletic ability to transition into the role being asked of him on Saturday night.
The selection of Simmons on the side of the scrum in combination with locks Sitaleki Timani and James Horwill strengthens the Qantas Wallabies set-piece while also providing a physical edge against an abrasive Italian forward pack.
Three further changes have been made on the bench with backrowers Dave Dennis and Liam Gill, along with winger Joe Tomane, all receiving an opportunity in the matchday squad.
Tomane re-gains selection after injuring himself following a Man of the Match performance against Argentina in Rosario, scoring one and setting up many of the team’s seven tries.
Dave Dennis comes back into the side after missing last week’s clash against England while Gill gets his first opportunity since coming on as a replacement in Australia’s opening three Tests of The Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship.
No.8 Ben Mowen and flyhalf Quade Cooper maintain their leadership responsibilities as captain and vice-captain respectively.
Qantas Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie said the inclusion of Simmons and the changes on the bench were tactical adjustments made to suit the style of game they are preparing to play on Saturday night. (Sunday morning 1am AEDT).
“Most of the Italian’s strength is derived through their forwards and that’s where they will look to take us on, especially at set-piece. We have to take them on up front,” McKenzie said.
“Having Simmo return will benefit us in that regard. He’s instrumental in us winning our own ball while we’ll be looking for him to put pressure on their lineout, and their scrum.
“Aside from that, he is one of our most athletic and powerful forwards. He has trained very well at blindside flanker and it will be interesting to see how he goes with a bit more space.
“However, no matter what position he is in, he’ll continue to bring his abrasive style. Currently, he sits in the top two for us in terms of the volume of tackles and also his tackle completions.
“We’ve also made changes to our bench to allow a few players an opportunity there.
“Joe won our Man of the Match award the last time he played so he has never been too far away from the team.
“Liam is a specialist openside flanker which will help Michael Hooper, who has played a lot of Rugby this year. We could also play the two of them on the field later in the game if the circumstances of the game call for it.
“Dave is a jumper and lineout caller, which gives us a good offset should Simmo move into the second row. It will help us keep our lineout intensity across the whole game.”
After opening their Spring Tour campaign with a loss, McKenzie said Australia would be determined to rebound against an Italian side which scored two impressive victories over Ireland and France during the 2013 Six Nations.
Victory would also continue Australia’s unbeaten record against Italy, which was extended to 15 games last year following a tight 22-19 victory in Florence.
“There is pressure every week but at the moment we are in the business of winning the next game. Italy is our next opportunity,” McKenzie said.
“We’ve never had an easy game here in Italy and even last year they had a chance to tie the game after the final siren. There wouldn’t be anyone in the Six Nations who would say coming here and winning is easy.
“They grow an extra leg playing at home and we recognise that going into the match.”
The Qantas Wallabies side to play Italy in their second Spring Tour Test at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday 9 November (Sunday Nov 10 1am AEDT):
1. James Slipper (Queensland Reds – 45 caps)
2. Stephen Moore (ACT Brumbies – 87 caps)
3. Ben Alexander (ACT Brumbies – 59 caps)
4. Sitaleki Timani (NSW Waratahs – 15 caps)
5. James Horwill (Queensland Reds – 44 caps)
6. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds – 33 caps)
7. Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs – 24 caps)
8. Ben Mowen (c - ACT Brumbies – 11 caps)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds – 51 caps)
10. Quade Cooper (vc - Queensland Reds – 46 caps)
11. Nick Cummins (Western Force – 9 caps)
12. Matt Toomua (ACT Brumbies – 8 caps)
13. Tevita Kuridrani (ACT Brumbies – 6 caps)
14. Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs – 88 caps)
15. Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs – 11 caps)
16. Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds – 27 caps)
17. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs – 63 caps)
18. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs – 34 caps)
19. Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs – 16 caps)
20. Liam Gill (Queensland Reds – 13 caps)
21. Nic White (ACT Brumbies – 7 caps)
22. Christian Leali’ifano (ACT Brumbies – 9 caps)
23. Joe Tomane (ACT Brumbies – 5 caps)