Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has rung the changes to his starting XV for Saturday’s game against France in Paris.
Eleven of the Wallabies’ starting line-up did not feature in the run-on team against Scotland or Wales, with seven new faces among 12 changes across an extended matchday squad, with some of the team’s biggest names left out of the encounter.
With the France match the only tour Test that won’t contribute to Australia’s Grand Slam attempt, it appears the one ripe for experimentation, with Cheika taking the opportunity to give four players run-on debuts – Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Sefa Naivalu and Luke Morahan – as well as Kyle Godwin his first Test.
Israel Folau, Michael Hooper, Bernard Foley, Stephen Moore and Dane Haylett-Petty are the only Wallabies to have started every Test this year and will all miss the Stade de France clash.
Foley and Moore have been named on an extended bench, along with new inclusion Taqele Naiyaravoro.
While it’s hard to ignore the names who won’t be in the side, Cheika said he felt the next generation had to take a step up and get a feel for running on in the Test environment.
“I just think it’s the right time to let a guy prepare as a starter. Sometimes on the finishers, it’s hard to know what you’re going to get because you don’t know when you’re going to go on, it’s hard to prepare,” he said.
There are some familiar names in the team, though, with Kane Douglas and Rob Simmons reuniting in the second row and Scott Fardy back in at blindside flanker, combining with David Pocock, who will captain the side in place of Stephen Moore.
With rising star Reece Hodge also out of the line-up, Godwin has been given a chance for his Test debut, two years after his first Wallabies tour.
“I happened to coach him on the ’14 (Spring) tour, didn’t know a lot about him and I thought he was outstanding,” added Cheika.
“He didn’t get a game on that tour but just as a young guy coming through was outstanding. I would not be lying if I said he’d stalled a little bit after that, didn’t come through but we made a decision this year to keep bringing him in the camp and just keep driving him because he’s got a lot of talent and he’s been really good this year for us. He’s a player they won’t know either so it’s something different for them to look at. He’s a solid defender and I just think he’s ready for it.”
Rather than shifting Haylett-Petty to his preferred full-back spot for the France game, Cheika has brought in Luke Morahan for his first Test start.
Morahan was a standout for the Barbarians in their recent three-match tour against South Africa, the Czech Republic and Fiji, after being left out of the initial Spring Tour squad in favour of Marika Koroibete.
Cheika said Morahan had shown a hunger to work his way back into the squad with his games for the Baa-baas.
“I don’t want him to be happy about getting left out, I want him to be dirty and when I called him about going to the Baabaas and come here, he was straight up for it,” said the coach.
“I didn’t say he’d be playing this game, was talking mainly for the[French] Baabaas game next week but I just think that it’s a good move and a good opportunity for him now to say, ‘Right, this is what I’ve got on the big stage’. It surprised me to find out when I first met him that he’d only had one cap, when I first got him in June because he’s a very knowledgeable player, he’s smart, he’s a big talker in the back field, he’s a finisher.
“He’s always scoring, [playing in the] NRC scoring tries, goes to the Baabaas scores tries. All the games he’s in the right spot at the right time, he’s got genuine pace and he’s deserved it I think. I know that I copped a bit of flak because I didn’t bring him but I knew that he’d be coming on this trip and that somewhere along the line I’d be able to get a hold of him while I try to get the other player in the groove of rugby and get him moving.”
Australia: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Sefanaia Naivalu, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 James Slipper
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Tom Robertson, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Lopeti Timani, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Bernard Foley, 24 Taqele Naiyaravoro
Date: Saturday, November 19
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)