Kurtley Beale will wear the Wallabies No.10 jersey for the first time since 2012 in an overhauled Australian back line to play the All Blacks on Saturday.
In a stunning move, Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has backed the 42-Test playmaker, whom he first selected at five-eighth as a teenager in the Waratahs, to lead Australia around the park at ANZ Stadium in the opening Test of the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series.
In-form Test incumbent Bernard Foley will move to the bench, an unlucky casualty of his NSW teammate’s outstanding form in Super Rugby and off the bench for the Wallabies this year.
In three more shock changes to the back line, Adam Ashley-Cooper moves in from the wing to his preferred position at outside centre, and Rob Horne and Pat McCabe will start on the wings.
Incumbent No.13 Tevita Kuridrani moves to the bench, alongside Foley and NSW halfback Nick Phipps.
Brumbies No.9 Nic White, inside centre Matt Toomua and Waratahs fullback Israel Folau are the only surviving members of the Wallabies back line that beat France in their three-Test series clean sweep in June.
In the pack, Western Force hooker Nathan Charles will make his maiden Test start at hooker, and Brumbies second row Sam Carter starts alongside line out general Rob Simmons in his return from an ankle injury he suffered in his Test debut against France in June.
Former Test captain James Horwill did not make the squad of 24, from which one player will be ommitted on Friday.
McKenzie said Foley had “not put a foot wrong”.
“There were a number of extremely tough selection decisions, especially after the way the team performed against France, however we’re confident we’ve come up with the best squad possible to win on Saturday night,” he said.
“In the end, we’ve got a very similar group of players to those who got the job done against France, we’ve just modified some roles slightly to suit how we want to play the game.
“Bernard hasn’t put a foot wrong since we chose him in June, but Kurtley has really stepped up his game over the past few months and he’s consistently been one of the Waratahs best players every week.”
Wallabies: Israel Folau, Pat McCabe, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Toomua, Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale, Nic White, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Sam Carter, Sekope Kepu, Nathan Charles, James Slipper. Replacements (one to be omitted): James Hanson, Pek Cowan, Ben Alexander, Will Skelton, Ben McCalman, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani.
- Georgina Robinson, SMH