Rugby Championship
Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley named Wallabies halves
ESPN Staff
September 2, 2014

Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley will start together for the first time as the Wallabies halves after Ewen McKenzie made five changes to his starting team to face South Africa in the Rugby Championship Test in Perth on Saturday.

The Super Rugby-winning New South Wales Waratahs halves replace Nic White and Kurtley Beale, respectively, with that pair dropping to the bench, while the retirement of Pat McCabe has resulted in a further reshuffle of the backline; vice-captain Adam Ashley Cooper shifts back to the right wing with Tevita Kuridrani called up at outside centre.

McKenzie made just one change to his pack, with Queensland Reds hooker James Hanson replacing Nathan Charles after the Western Force rake was ruled out for the remainder of 2014 with a pectoral tear.

The coach opted for a forward-heavy 6-2 split on the bench, with lock James Horwill returning to the squad and Western Force captain Matt Hodgson and Queensland Reds hooker Saia Fainga'a each given their first opportunity for Australia in 2014.

The Wallabies have made six changes to their starting XV to face South Africa

McKenzie said the changes reflected the different challenge the team would face against South Africa.

"While the size of the challenge isn't any easier this week, the South Africans do play a unique brand of rugby which we will need to adjust to," McKenzie said. "That's reflected in our selections somewhat, where we feel the partnership of Nick and Bernard will best suit the style of game we'll be trying to play. They've got a proven combination at a Super Rugby level and we look forward to seeing how that translates into the Test environment.

"It's naturally disappointing for the two guys who missed out on the starting team, in Nic and Kurtley, but the reality is we have a lot of good players in those playmaking positions.

"We expect them to respond in a positive manner and to make an impact playing an important role in how we close out the match."

McKenzie said the bench would be important against the South Africans.

"We've been really impressed with the variety South Africa has brought to their game in recent times, but traditionally they are a forward-orientated side which uses their size, power and set-piece to put pressure on the opposition," he said. "You have to confront that head-on and match fire with fire. The addition of an extra forward also offers us greater flexibility in how we approach our substitutions.

"James has been working really hard to push his way back into the match-day squad, and I've been really impressed with how he has gone about his work. He will also bring the added benefit of giving us an additional lineout jumping option when he's on the field.

Matt Hodgson is in line for his first cap since July 2011 © Getty Images

"Matt Hodgson also deserves a special mention. He's been doing everything he can on and off the field to get an opportunity, and has been the ultimate team man in the process. We look forward to seeing what he'll bring to the match."

McKenzie's retention of his pack - Hanson apart - despite their capitulation against New Zealand in Auckland indicates that he views the outmatched performance in Auckland as an "aberration".

"It's about whether you feel you are improving," McKenzie said on Monday. "You can't say we have improved to last week. "We have to work out whether it was an aberration or whether we need to continue to look.

"I can look at the [Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland] … in fact the last two games, there were so many things that we could have done better, [but] that's a function of pressure. There are so many ways we could have been tidier in our approach and limited their opportunities.

"They scored a bunch of tries from turnovers ... There is the turnover itself, but what you do with the turnover ball [is important]. If you can control that, you can force them into set-piece, and they have to win the ball to play it. We can handle those situations much better."

Australia: Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, , Matt Toomua, Rob Horne; Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (captain), Scott Fardy; Rob Simmons, Sam Carter; Sekope Kepu, James Hanson, James Slipper. Replacements: Saia Fainga'a, Pek Cowan, Ben Alexander, James Horwill, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, Nic White, Kurtley Beale.

James Horwill performed strongly for Brisbane City on the weekend © Johan Schmidt Photography
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