Cardiff Blues v Australia, Cardiff, November 24
Blues and Wallabies set for historic clash
November 23, 2009
Wales openside Sam Warburton checks for support, Wales v Samoa, Millennium Stadium, November 13, 2009
Warburton won his second Wales cap against Samoa earlier this month © Getty Images

Cardiff Blues will step in to the unknown at Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday night, welcoming Australia to their new home in the Wallabies' final midweek tour fixture.

The game is a mouth-watering curtain-raiser for Saturday's Test meeting between the tourists and Wales across town at the Millennium Stadium and also marks the first meeting between a Cardiff side and a touring team since the regionalisation of Welsh rugby in 2003.

Cardiff RFC have a proud history against Australia, winning six games against their illustrious opposition since 1908. In 1975 Gerald Davies skippered the men in blue and black to victory and a Cardiff side featuring the mercurial Mark Ring also defeated the Wallabies on their 1984 Grand Slam tour.

Wales internationals Gareth Cooper and Sam Warburton will both start for Cardiff Blues. Scrum-half Cooper and flanker Warburton have been released from the Wales squad with the blessing of team-management.

"Gareth and Sam could well have figured in our own plans on Saturday, and they are not entirely ruled out should we need to make any changes towards the end of the training week. But obviously, they will not be named for Wales when we make our team announcement tomorrow. We will incur some disruption to our own preparations, but this decision is about putting the players first, as well as backing Welsh regional rugby."

The Blues will be without several Wales players, including Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny, Gethin Jenkins, Andy Powell and Martyn Williams. But head coach David Young can still parade a solid line-up that includes Australian Sam Norton-Knight at fly-half in a team captained from number eight by New Zealander Xavier Rush.

"The physicality of the match will be a step up for us," said Young. "But in the later stages of the Heineken Cup, if you look across the teams we have played against, they have been pretty much full international sides. So it is nothing that the players will be totally alien to.

"Australia are very happy to attack from anywhere, and any one of their players is comfortable with ball in hand. Every one of them will look to play rugby. We can't switch off as they will always look to attack, which is great for the spectator, but is certainly going to test us."

Australia Under-20 and Brumbies fly-half Matt Toomua will make his senior debut for his country. The selection of Toomua, 19, is one of three personnel changes to the starting line-up from the Australian side which won its opening midweek match of the tour at Gloucester. The others see Pekahou Cowan included to start at loosehead prop, in the place of Salesi Ma'afu, after coming off the bench as a hooker against Gloucester.

Ma'afu is relegated to the bench, after featuring on the tighthead side of the scrum at Gloucester, with Sekope Kepu switching from loosehead to tighthead to accommodate the inclusion of Cowan. James O'Connor also starts at fullback with Kurtley Beale, who filled that role against Gloucester, switching to wing in the place of Drew Mitchell.

O'Connor is one of seven players in the starting XV who back up from last weekend's Test match in Edinburgh, although centre Ryan Cross is the only player who starts at Cardiff who also featured in the run on list for the Test match.

Kepu, hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, No.8 Richard Brown, scrum-half Luke Burgess and lock Dean Mumm are the other starters playing their second match in four days. Mumm again leads the midweek side, after making a successful fist of his first time in charge when Australia over-powered English Premiership side Gloucester 36-5 at Kingsholm earlier in the month.

Bench inclusions lock Mark Chisholm, flanker George Smith and inside centre Quade Cooper all started in the 8-9 loss to Scotland at the weekend. The bench also sees the inclusion of squad newcomer Luke Morahan, who joined the team last week in Edinburgh as the replacement for Stirling Mortlock. Scrum-half Richard Kingi, is also on the bench and is also poised to play for his country at senior level for the first time, albeit in a non-cap match.

Cardiff Blues: Ben Blair; Richard Mustoe, Gareth Thomas, Dafydd Hewitt, Chris Czekaj; Sam Norton-Knight, Gareth Cooper; Xavier Rush (c), Ben White, Sam Warburton, Scott Morgan, Deiniol Jones, Gary Powell, Gareth Williams, Taufa'au Filise

Replacements: T Rhys Thomas, Sam Hobbs, Paul Tito, Robin Sowden Taylor, Richie Rees, Ceri Sweeney, Gavin Evans

Australia: James O'Connor; Lachie Turner, Ryan Cross, Tyrone Smith, Kurtley Beale; Matt Toomua, Luke Burgess; Richard Brown, Matt Hodgson, Mitchell Chapman, Dean Mumm, Dave Dennis, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Pekahou Cowan

Replacements: Salesi Ma'afu, Matt Dunning, Mark Chisholm, George Smith, Richard Kingi, Quade Cooper, Luke Morahan


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