Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has dropped a Bledisloe bombshell, dropping Scott Fardy out of the starting XV for Saturday’s opening Test.
Fardy has started in all but one Test since Cheika took over the national coaching job, a crucial part of the Wallabies’ run to a World Cup final, and will come off the bench for the Bledisloe clash.
The Brumbies flanker has been replaced in the side by Ben McCalman, set to start his first Test since running on at number eight in last year’s World Cup quarter-final.
Australia's backrow reshuffle means that boom rookie Sean McMahon has missed out on the team altogether, after starting at no.8 in the last two Tests in June, with Fardy and Dean Mumm the utility forwards on the pine.
Cheika has opted to stick with the unorthodox combination of Michael Hooper and David Pocock at seven and eight, reuniting the pair for the first time since the opening June Test against England.
Returned Europe-based players Will Genia, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Matt Giteau will all reprise their roles from last year’s World Cup, in their first appearance on home soil this year.
Ashley-Cooper will team up with Dane Haylett-Petty on the wings, with the Force fullback retaining his post after an impressive June series, the only June debutant to do so.
Genia’s start will be his first game of rugby since January, undergoing knee surgery after just four games for the French club, with the former Queensland Red to share the halfback duties with Nick Phipps.
Bernard Foley has bested Quade Cooper in the starting flyhalf spot, with Cheika opting for the same playmaking spine that he took to the World Cup final last year and Cooper missing the 23 despite showing improvement on his return from France.
Cheika has kept his word and stuck with Israel Folau at fullback for the Bledisloe opener, with Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua and Rob Horne the cover for the backs in the Sydney Test.
The lock combination of Rob SImmons and Kane Douglas will have its first real test on home soil, with Douglas not returning to the Wallabies fold until last year's World Cup.
Brumbies prop Allan Alaalatoa is in line to become the sixth Wallabies debutant of the season, named on the bench for the first time.
Ten of the side picked to play this opening Test featured in last year’s win over the All Blacks in Sydney, with 13 World Cup final starters in the XV this time around.
Wallabies team to face New Zealand on Saturday August 20, 8:05pm AEST ANZ Stadium
1. Scott Sio (18 Tests)
2. Stephen Moore (105 Tests)
3. Sekope Kepu (66 Tests)
4.Kane Douglas (23 Tests)
5. Rob Simmons (62 Tests)
6. Ben McCalman (48 Tests)
7. Michael Hooper (54 Tests)
8 David Pocock (56 Tests)
9. Will Genia (66 Tests)
10. Bernard Foley (30 Tests)
11. Dane Haylett-Petty (3 Tests)
12. Matt Giteau (102 Tests)
13. Tevita Kuridrani (34 Tests)
14. Adam Ashley-Cooper (114 Tests)
15 Israel Folau (41 Tests)
16. Tatafu Polota-Nau (64 Tests)
17. James Slipper (77 Tests)
18. Allan Alaalatoa* (0 Tests)
19. Dean Mumm (46 Tests)
20. Scott Fardy (33 Tests)
21. Nick Phipps (42 Tests)
22. Matt Toomua (32 Tests)
23. Rob Horne (32 Tests)