Brisbane – Coach Michael Cheika has beefed up Australia to match England’s physical threat with a towering new lock and a giant centre pairing for the Test series opener against England in Brisbane on Saturday.
Cheika has opted for three new caps – Brumbies lock Rory Arnold, Queensland Reds centre Samu Kerevi and Western Force wing Dane Haylett-Petty – to start for Australia in the first of three Tests for the Cook Cup.
The 2.08 metre Arnold will become the tallest man to wear the Wallabies’ gold jersey when he makes his debut alongside 60-Test veteran Rob Simmons.
Reds outside-back Kerevi will team up with Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani to form one of the biggest centre pairings for the Wallabies in an anticipated physical confrontation with Eddie Jones’ England.
A fourth new cap – Reds scrumhalf Nick Frisby – was named among the replacements as understudy to first choice Nick Phipps.
“Four new caps in one game is a fair few,” Cheika told reporters. “They’ve put in a great amount of effort over these couple of weeks and I can see they’re stinging for the game.”
Cheika preferred the dynamic rookie Kerevi at inside centre, ahead of the more seasoned Christian Leali’ifano and Karmichael Hunt.
“I’ve been really impressed by Kerevi,” said Cheika. “He’s been convincing me at training, the little things, the combination and the relationships between those players and their communication.
“It changes up the way we look from a footy perspective, and that’s something we need to do as well as a team – continue to evolve.”
Haylett-Petty has secured a berth on the right wing with the team’s newly appointed vice-captain Rob Horne on the left.
Despite not being in the starting side, the ball-playing Leali’ifano was included in the 23-player squad following the birth of his son and is expected to be introduced into the Test at some stage in the second half.
Israel Folau retained the full-back position despite playing in the centres for the Waratahs this season.
Newly re-signed Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu returns from French Top 14 club Bordeaux-Begles on the replacements bench alongside Harlequins lock and former Reds captain James Horwill.
Hooker Stephen Moore will play his 103rd Test when he leads the Wallabies for the 12th time, surpassing Stephen Larkham and Matt Giteau (both on 102 Test caps) to become the fourth-most capped Wallaby of all time.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Scott Sio
Substitutes: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 James Horwill, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Sean McMahon, 22 Nick Frisby, 23 Christian Lealiifano
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13
Jonathan Joseph, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Owen Farrell, 9
Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5
George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1
Substitutes: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie,
17 Matt Mullan, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21
Danny Care, 22 George Ford, 23 Jack Nowell