Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Only six Wallabies left from Cup semi to begin Bledisloe

David Pocock. Photo / Getty Images
David Pocock. Photo / Getty Images

Only six Wallabies return from their last test with the All Blacks to begin a Bledisloe Cup series which has been stretched to a three-game format.

New skipper David Pocock has Sekope Kepu, Will Genia, Digby Ioane, Anthony Faingaa and Adam Ashley-Cooper from the teams' previous duel in the World Cup semifinal when the All Blacks triumphed 20-6 at Eden Park.

Ashley-Cooper has shifted from fullback to the wing in the absence of James O'Connor while Faingaa has moved into second five-eighths because of an injury to Pat McCabe.

Injury has taken O'Connor, McCabe, Quade Cooper, Dan Vickerman and James Horwill out of contention for this test while Rocky Elsom's form has been so patchy he could not be considered.

The residue is dominated by the Waratahs, who have eight players in the starting side even though they finished 12th in this year's Super rugby series with just four wins.

Five of their forwards have made the pack with newer faces being Dave Dennis at blindside and Sitaleki Timani at lock.

While the side is changed significantly from the World Cup semifinal, coach Robbie Deans has made only three alterations from the side which completed the three-test June clean sweep against Wales.

Faingaa is the backline change while a second test start for Dennis and a switch from blindside to No8 for Scott Higginbotham have occurred for Saturday's start to the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship series.

Higginbotham replaces an injured Wycliff Palu and that allows Dennis, who was the Waratahs' player of the season, to move into his franchise-dominated pack.

Berrrick Barnes has retained his first five-eighths role ahead of a recovering Cooper with the Wallaby selectors opting to use a five-two forwards-backs split on the bench.

This year, the Bledisloe Cup has changed to a three-test series as the All Blacks defend a trophy they won in 2003 and have retained ever since. Since winning the trophy a decade ago, the All Blacks have won 19 and the Wallabies five of their test encounters.

After this weekend's test in Sydney, where the All Blacks have won their last two internationals by a solitary point, the sides fly to Auckland for a return test at Eden Park before their last test is held in Brisbane on October 20.


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- NZ Herald

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