Wallabies face Eagles with new skipper
Story and Photo: www.rugbyworldcup.com
WELLINGTON, 21 Sept. - Papua New Guinea-born scrum half Will Genia will captain Australia for the first time when they play USA in the Pool C match at Wellington Regional Stadium on Friday.
Genia, 23, will be Australia's 78th rugby Test skipper. Squad captain James Horwill will sit out the match to rest a sore shoulder.
Nine players from the Wallaby starting XV that lost 15-6 to Ireland will back up against USA, with wing James O'Connor missing with an injured hamstring and others rotated to the bench.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said the changes were not made because Friday night's opposition was considered weaker.
"It's exactly the opposite. We are according the USA full respect by opting for the changes we have made, in order to have a totally fresh and focused team," Deans said.
Ready for responsibility
There was a flurry in the Wallabies camp when flanker Scott Higginbotham and reserve hooker Saia Faingaa had to withdraw after the original team had been decided.
Higginbotham hurt his back in training on Wednesday morning and was replaced in the starting line-up by Rocky Elsom, while hooker Stephen Moore, who missed the Ireland match with illness, returns via the bench for Saia Faingaa, who has the flu.
Deans said all players except Digby Ioane (thumb) were expected to be fit in time for the 1 October pool match against Russia.
Deans said giving the leadership to Genia for this match was an easy decision.
"Willy's ready for the responsibility. He's got a lot of background in leadership, he leads in games, he's part of the leadership group. (The decision was) pretty straightforward," the New Zealand-born Australia coach said.
In the backline changes, wing Drew Mitchell comes off the bench to replace O'Connor, while Rob Horne makes his return to Test rugby at inside centre for Pat McCabe, who moves to the bench.
In the pack, number 8 Wycliff Palu moves from the bench to a starting role, second rows Nathan Sharpe and Rob Simmons gain their third Test starts of the season and James Slipper starts for the first time this year, and in his preferred position of loosehead prop.
Inside back Berrick Barnes has been included in the 22 and will make his first appearance at Rugby World Cup 2011 if he takes the field.
Genia indicated the Wallabies had reviewed their tactics since the defeat by Ireland and would be placing more emphasis on field position.
"Here (at RWC) it seems to be favouring defensive sides a lot more," he said.
"So from that point of view if you look to play a little bit too much in your own end (of the field) you find yourself in trouble. We want to be smart in the way that we play the game and we'll look to do that this week."