Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Toomua to make Test debut against All Blacks

Matt Toomua is one of 10 Brumbies in the 23-man Wallabies match squad. Photo / Getty Images
Matt Toomua is one of 10 Brumbies in the 23-man Wallabies match squad. Photo / Getty Images

Pledges about change from new coach Ewen McKenzie emerged as he unveiled a new look Wallaby side intent on reclaiming the Bledisloe Cup.

He has bulked up the squad with more Brumbies and rearranged the backline talent for Saturday's opening duel with the All Blacks in Sydney.

Matt Toomua will debut at first five eighths with the incumbent from Robbie Deans' tenure, James O'Connor sifting out to the left wing.

New fullback Jese Mogg comes in after one crack as a substitute during the Lions series and openside flanker Michael Hooper reclaims his place from the now departed George Smith.

McKenzie has pumped up the aerobic content in the pack with James Slipper chosen at loosehead while the 'mongrel' the coach also covets will come from the recycled Hugh McMenamin.

The former lock and now blindside flanker has played the last three seasons in Japan before returning to the Force this season.

His performances caught Deans' eye during the Super 15 but a shoulder injury and other problems meant McMenamin could not get back to playing health for the Lions series.

He is ready now and Mckenzie has picked him on the blindside where his abrasive impact will be compared now with replacement All Black selection Steven Luatua.

McKenzie was confident his side could achieve immediate success.

"When we picked the team we didn't spend one minute looking at how many test caps a player had or the number of debutants.

"It was picked on performance over a sustained period of time and on how we want to play the game."

There was no concern that five of the group had yet to play a test. Everyone had to start sometime and they had not been chosen on the evidence of just one match.

"Rather they are starting their test careers off the back of consistently strong performances at a provincial level," said McKenzie.

Wallabies: Jesse Mogg, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali'ifano, James O'Connor, Matt Toomua, Will Genia, Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Hugh McMenamin, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper. Reserves: Tevita Kuridrani, Quade Cooper, Nic White, Ben McCalman, Liam Gill, Scott Fardy, Scott Sio, Sekope Kepu, Saia Faingaa.

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