NSW Waratahs enforcer Will Skelton will make his Test debut for the Qantas Wallabies as they target a clean sweep of the French in the final match of the 2014 Castrol EDGE France Tour at Allianz Stadium on Saturday afternoon (kickoff 3:00pm).
With Australia entering the match with an insurmountable 2-0 series lead, coach Ewen McKenzie has opted to give the 203cm, 140kg lock an opportunity in the starting side in his home State.
His inclusion represents one of the two changes made to the starting XV, with Skelton’s Waratahs teammate Wycliff Palu returning at No.8 after missing the second Test in Melbourne with a minor ankle injury.
There have been two further changes made on the bench with ACT Brumbies prop Scott Sio and Waratahs outside back Rob Horne getting their first opportunities in the match day squad for 2014.
Horne comes in for Pat McCabe, who has suffered a nerve compression injury to his shoulder, making him unavailable for selection this week.
McKenzie said he was looking forward to seeing what impact Skelton would bring to the match.
“During the series we’ve already benefited from giving two other locks, Sam Carter and Luke Jones, their first opportunities for Australia. The experience they gained will prove invaluable in the long-run and now it’s Will’s turn to show us what he has got,” McKenzie said.
“I’ve been really impressed with his attitude and the contribution he’s made to this team since the beginning of the series. He’s obviously got impressive metrics but he also has a big motor and is particularly skillful, so we’re looking forward to seeing how he will impose himself on the game.
“He’s worked really hard over the past 12 months at the Waratahs on improving his match conditioning and we believe he is ready for the step-up to Test Rugby.”
Saturday’s victory over France was Australia’s sixth consecutive win, a feat last achieved by a Qantas Wallabies team in 2005.
McKenzie said it would be important for his side to maintain consistency as they target seven straight wins, a milestone last achieved in 1999/2000.
“During this stretch we’ve spoken a lot about ensuring we are meticulous with our preparation so that we put ourselves in the best possible position to play at a high level every week,” he said.
“You’re always working towards that complete game where you find the balance between your intentions in attack and an impenetrable defence, and it has been pleasing to see the squad highlight those characteristics at different points across the past six games.
“Our desire is to always play an up-tempo brand of Rugby and we’ve now scored 23 tries in the past six games, an average of almost four a game.
“Our defence has also been steadily improving with each match, culminating with a shut-out of the French in our most recent match in Melbourne.
“The challenge and what we are always aiming for is to put both together and that will be our goal when we return to afternoon Rugby in Sydney on Saturday.”
Melbourne Rebels lock Luke Jones has been nominated as the team’s 24th-man.
Tickets are available for the final Castrol EDGE France Tour Test from $49 via Ticketek (www.ticketek.com.au or 132 849).
Fans will have the opportunity to meet members of the Qantas Wallabies, Classic Wallabies, Men’s and Women’s Sevens players at the Sydney Cricket Ground before Saturday’s Test against France between 12pm-2pm.
Fans can also take part in Rugby skill sessions, try out the horizontal Rugby bungee, practice kicking with a new simulator and grab a BBQ lunch.
The official Qantas Wallabies mascot, Wally, will also be there and his helpers will be handing out plenty of giveaways for kids. There will be a chance to win tickets to the Sydney Bledisloe Cup Test in August through Fan Day Trivia.
The Qantas Wallabies side to play France in the third Castrol EDGE France Tour Test for the Trophée des Bicentenaires at Allianz Stadium on Saturday 21 June is:
1. James Slipper (vc - Queensland Reds - 51 caps)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (NSW Waratahs – 48 caps)
3. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs - 40 caps)
4. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds - 39 caps)
5. Will Skelton (NSW Waratahs – uncapped)*
6. Scott Fardy (ACT Brumbies - 12 caps)
7. Michael Hooper (c - NSW Waratahs - 30 caps)
8. Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs – 50 caps)
9. Nic White (ACT Brumbies - 12 caps)
10. Bernard Foley (NSW Waratahs - 6 caps)
11. Nick Cummins (Western Force - 14 caps)
12. Matt Toomua (ACT Brumbies - 12 caps)
13. Tevita Kuridrani (ACT Brumbies - 10 caps)
14. Adam Ashley-Cooper (vc - NSW Waratahs - 93 caps)
15. Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs - 17 caps)
16. Nathan Charles (Western Force – 1 cap)
17. Scott Sio (ACT Brumbies – 4 caps)
18. Laurie Weeks (Melbourne Rebels – 1 cap)
19. James Horwill (Queensland Reds – 50 caps)
20. Ben McCalman (Western Force - 31 caps)
21. Nick Phipps (NSW Waratahs – 16 caps)
22. Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs - 41 caps)
23. Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs - 15 caps)