Qantas Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has named former Rugby League star Curtis Rona to debut in Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup opener at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
Rona, who starred for the Western Force in his first full season of Vodafone Super Rugby, will line-up on the left wing with Dane Haylett-Petty succumbing to a bicep injury.
The opening Bledisloe clash also sees the return of Kurtley Beale, who will pull on the gold jersey for the first time since the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final.
Saturday’s clash will be the first time that Beale will wear the number 12 jersey at Test level.
Even more remarkably, the Wallabies have also never started a Test with a backline featuring Beale, fly half Bernard Foley and fullback Israel Folau.
Beale will partner Queensland star Samu Kerevi in the centres after the latter missed the June Test Series with an ankle injury.
Seán McMahon will also make his return to the Test arena after a wrist injury left him sidelined during the mid-year internationals.
starting front row of 94-Test veteran Owen Franks, fellow prop Joe Moody and hooker Codie Taylor, with Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett and Ofa Tu’ungafasi the front row cover. The experienced locking combination of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick will pair up for their 44th start together, with Luke Romano providing impact off the bench. In the loose forwards, Liam Squire comes into the matchday 23 in the number six jersey for his fourth Test start, alongside openside Sam Cane and All Blacks Captain Kieran Read, with Ardie Savea named as loose forward cover.
In the backs, Aaron Smith will start alongside Beauden Barrett. TJ Perenara and Lima Sopoaga are the inside backs run on reserves. Sonny Bill Williams returns to the matchday 23 at 12 inside Ryan Crotty, while in the outside backs Damian McKenzie starts at fullback in his third Test, with Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane on the wings. Anton Lienert-Brown provides additional back cover.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “There’s a real sense of excitement within the group and a desire to go out and perform well this weekend. This Test will give us a great opportunity to gauge where we are at when it comes to things we have been working on since the Lions Tour.
“We’ve had a great build-up here in Sydney and there’s a single-minded focus. We’re playing for our most significant trophy outside of the Rugby World Cup and it means a lot to us as a team As always, it’s going to be a massive occasion and we’re
looking forward to Saturday.”
To watch Steve Hansen and Liam Squire talk about the Bledisloe Cup team, click here.
Qantas Wallabies team to play New Zealand at ANZ Stadium, Sydney, on Saturday 19 August 2017
15. Israel Folau; 14. Henry Speight; 13. Samu Kerevi; 12. Kurtley Beale; 11. Curtis Rona; 10. Bernard Foley; 9. Will Genia.
1. Scott Sio; 2. Stephen Moore; 3. Allan Alaalatoa; 4. Rory Arnold; 5. Adam Coleman;
6. Ned Hanigan; 7. Michael Hooper (captain); 8. Seán McMahon.
16. Tatafu Polota-Nau; 17. Tom Robertson; 18. Sekope Kepu; 19. Rob Simmons; 20. Lopeti Timani; 21. Nick Phipps; 22. Reece Hodge; 23. Tevita Kuridrani.
The All Blacks team has been named to play the opening Bledisloe Cup – Investec Championship match against Australia at ANZ Stadium on Saturday 19 August 2017.
The matchday 23 (with Test caps in brackets) is:
1. Joe Moody (28)
2. Codie Taylor (19)
3. Owen Franks (94)
4. Brodie Retallick (64)
5. Samuel Whitelock (88)
6. Liam Squire (9)
7. Sam Cane (44)
8. Kieran Read (100) – Captain
9. Aaron Smith (62)
10. Beauden Barrett (53)
11. Rieko Ioane (5)
12. Sonny Bill Williams (36)
13. Ryan Crotty (27)
14. Ben Smith (62)
15. Damian McKenzie (2)
16. Nathan Harris (8)
17. Wyatt Crockett (62)
18. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (4)
19. Luke Romano (26)
20. Ardie Savea (16)
21. TJ Perenara (33)
22. Lima Sopoaga (7)
23. Anton Lienert-Brown (13)
The Bledisloe Cup match will kick off at 8.05PM AEST (10.05PM NZT) and will be broadcast in New Zealand LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on SKY Sport.
* The All Blacks have played Australia 158 times with 109 wins to the All Blacks, 42 to the Wallabies and seven draws. The most recent match was the 37-10 victory to the All Blacks in the third Bledisloe Cup match in October last year.
* The All Blacks won The Rugby Championship in 2012 – 2014 and again in 2016, have held The Bledisloe Cup (played between New Zealand and Australia) since 2003 and The Freedom Cup (played between New Zealand and South Africa) since 2010.
Investec Rugby Championship
1. vs. AUSTRALIA. Saturday 19 August, 8.05PM, ANZ Stadium, SYDNEY
2. vs. AUSTRALIA. Saturday 26 August, 7.35PM, Forsyth Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN
3. vs. ARGENTINA. Saturday 9 Sept, 7.35PM, Yarrow Stadium, NEW PLYMOUTH
4. vs. SOUTH AFRICA. Saturday 16 September, 7.35PM, QBE Stadium, AUCKLAND
5. vs. ARGENTINA. Sat 30 Sept, 7.30PM, Estadio José Amalfitani, BUENOS AIRES
6. vs. SOUTH AFRICA. Sat 7 October, 5.05PM, DHL Newlands, CAPE TOWN