Australia v France, Sydney, June 27
Wallabies ring the changes for France clash
June 23, 2009
Wallabies skipper Striling Mortlock passes the ball in training, Moore Park, Sydney, Australia, June 22, 2009
Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock will win his 78th cap for his country this weekend © Getty Images

Skipper Stirling Mortlock returns to the Wallabies' line-up for this Saturday's one-off Test with France in Sydney.

The Brumbies veteran comes in for Ryan Cross in one of several changes to the side that powered past Italy in Melbourne last weekend.

Coach Robbie Deans for has also reinstated fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper, winger Drew Mitchell, fly-half Matt Giteau, No.8 Richard Brown, lock Nathan Sharpe, hooker Stephen Moore and props Al Baxter and Benn Robinson for the ANZ Stadium clash. They take the starting places of James O'Connor, Peter Hynes, Quade Cooper, David Pocock, Peter Kimlin, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ben Alexander and Pek Cowan respectively.

O'Connor, Cross, Pocock, Polota-Nau and Alexander drop to the replacements bench while Hynes, Cooper, Kimlin and Cowan along with fellow squad members Lote Tuqiri and Timana Tahu have been released back to their clubs.

"This is the combination we feel will serve us best this weekend," said Deans.

Australia's win in Paris last year, which was its first on French soil in eight years, allowed the Wallabies to successfully retain the Trophée Des Bicentenaires, after the two-nil series win in Australia earlier in 2008. The Wallabies have since kicked on in 2009, running up 125 points, and 18 tries, through the first three matches that the team has played this year.

Although happy with all his side has achieved during its three wins to open their international campaign, Deans tempered the excitement by saying the performance bar will have to be raised significantly from this point.

"The Barbarians and the Italians provided us with a good opening to the season; we had three quality work outs, but there is no doubt that they were a level down on what is coming," he said. "You only have to look as far back as the last two weeks, and what the French achieved in New Zealand, to see what a massive threat they will be. "They'll be better for the time they've had together, there's no doubt about that."

Although Deans guided Australia to its three-nil sweep over France in his first season in the position last year, that result holds little relevance according to the Kiwi.

"The French won't have enjoyed the outcomes when we met last year. I'm sure they will see Saturday night as an opportunity to gain a little payback, while building on the confidence that they have gained out of the series against the All Blacks."

Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies), Lachie Turner (NSW Waratahs), Stirling Mortlock (Brumbies, captain), Berrick Barnes (Queensland Reds), Drew Mitchell (Western Force), Matt Giteau (Western Force), Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs), Richard Brown (Western Force), George Smith (Brumbies), Dean Mumm (NSW Waratahs), Nathan Sharpe (Western Force), James Horwill (Queensland Reds), Al Baxter (NSW Waratahs), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)

Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau (NSW Waratahs), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Phil Waugh (NSW Waratahs), David Pocock (Western Force), Josh Valentine (Western Force), Ryan Cross (Western Force), James O'Connor (Western Force)


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