McKenzie opts for Toomua at fly-half
August 15, 2013
Matt Toomua has been rewarded for consistent performances with the Brumbies this season © Getty Images
The Wallabies have announced five uncapped players in their 23-man Test squad, with playmaker Matt Toomua to make his debut at fly-half in Saturday night's opening Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship clash against New Zealand at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
Toomua is the sole debutant to be chosen in new coach Ewen McKenzie's inaugural Test starting line-up, while fellow uncapped ACT Brumbies team-mates Scott Sio, Scott Fardy, Nic White and Tevita Kuridrani have all earned places on the bench.
The selection of five uncapped players marks a new era under McKenzie and is reward for their year-long performances in a Brumbies side that only marginally went down to New Zealand's Chiefs in the Super Rugby Final a fortnight ago.
They'll be expected to play an integral role in a new-look Wallabies line-up that includes eight changes to the starting XV which took the field for Australia in their final Test against The British & Irish Lions in July.
Those changes comprise of Ben Mowen shifting to No.8 and James O'Connor to the wing, along with the inclusion of prop James Slipper, lock Rob Simmons, flankers Hugh McMeniman and Michael Hooper, fullback Jesse Mogg and Toomua.
McKenzie said he was confident the new group could achieve immediate success as they begin their pursuit of winning the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.
"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," McKenzie said. "The fact that five guys haven't played a Test before isn't a concern. Everyone has to start from somewhere and we definitely haven't picked them on one game. Rather, they are starting their Test careers off the back of consistently strong performances at a provincial level.
Follow live text commentary of the Bledisloe Cup Test between Australia and New Zealand on Saturday, August 17, from 730pm (AEST), 930pm (NZT), 930am (GMT)
"The reality is that whether it's in Super Rugby or the Test arena, all our guys have a lot of familiarity with who we are playing against. I see that as a positive as we aren't playing anyone we don't already know a lot about. If you keep the contest in that space you will find that we've had success in all the head-to-head individual battles at some point and under different circumstances. So, if our guys do well against their individual opponent, than I think we've got a gameplan and a game style where we will be able to express ourselves and put the team in a good position to win."
All five potential debutants have experienced unique journeys on their way to winning selection in the Qantas Wallabies line-up for Saturday night.
For Toomua, his selection has been four years in the making after the talented 23-year-old made the briefest of appearances for Australia in an uncapped midweek clash against the Cardiff Blues in 2009. Toomua lasted just four minutes when a broken jaw ended his night prematurely, setting the tone for a frustrating next three seasons where he was limited to just 28 Super Rugby games heading into 2013.
Having enjoyed an injury-free preseason, Toomua has stepped up to the next level during the past year and was an integral member to both the Brumbies' Super Rugby Finals Series success and also their historic midweek victory over The British & Irish Lions in June.
"We could have gone many different ways at fly-half as we have a lot of good options there, but in the end we see some great tactical opportunities starting the game with Matt," McKenzie said. "It's obvious that each of our playmaking options have different styles so it's important that we're looking to get the best out of their individual strengths at different stages of the game. To his credit, Matt has had a really good season and he has been playing up until last week in a team that made the Super Rugby final. He's done a lot of good things and there isn't any reason he doesn't deserve a go."
Australia: Jesse Mogg, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali'ifano, James O'Connor, Matt Toomua, Will Genia, Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Hugh McMeniman, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper.
Replacements: Saia Fainga'a, Scott Sio, Sekope Kepu, Scott Fardy, Liam Gill, Nic White, Quade Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani.
Greg Growden and Russell Barwick preview the Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Europe crushed the USA 11-2 to retain the Mosconi Cup in Las Vegas
Honda fears the knowledge other engine manufacturers will gain in 2014 could put it on the back foot when it returns to the sport
Jose Mourinho lauded man of the match Eden Hazard after his sparkling display helped Chelsea secure a thrilling 4-3 win at Sunderland
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes Luis Suarez will soon be on the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo after the striker's superb four-goal salvo in the 5-1 thrashing of Norwich
Brazil legend Pele says he turned down the chance to take part in Friday's draw for next summer's World Cup finals because he feared putting the hosts in a tough group