Four changes in Australia team to take on England
LONDON — Australia rugby coach Robbie Deans has made four changes in his team to face England at Twickenham on Saturday in the wake of their 33-6 thrashing by France last week.
Fullback Berrick Barnes and winger Digby Ioane return in place of Mike Harris and Pat McCabe, while lock Sitaleki Timani and tighthead prop Ben Alexander come in for Kane Douglas and Sekope Kepu up front.
McCabe and Douglas were ruled out through injury, while Harris and Kepu were named among the replacements. Key flanker David Pocock was unavailable with a calf strain, as was lock Rob Simmons following his eight-week ban for a tip tackle in the France match.
Ioane, Timani and Alexander all missed that game through injury, while Barnes played the last quarter off the bench.
"The key focus has been to take the meaning from it and put that learning into practice for this week both through our preparation and then on to the game itself," Deans said on Thursday of the French defeat.
"There aren’t too many challenges in Test rugby greater than playing England at Twickenham. We are playing an England side that has been building up under its new leadership and will see Saturday as the chance to lay down a marker for the future. They will be excited by the opportunities they saw out of our performance last weekend.
"But it goes both ways. Saturday is a significant opportunity for us as a group as well.
"It’s going to be a great occasion and one that the whole group is looking forward to."
Only five of Saturday’s starting 15 — Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Nathan Sharpe, Alexander and Benn Robinson — featured when Australia last played at Twickenham three years ago, when England triumphed 35-18.
England were to name their team later on Thursday with the return of winger Chris Ashton likely to be the only change from the side which hammered Fiji 54-12 last week.
Meanwhile, No8 Kieran Read will captain the All Blacks for the first time against Italy on Saturday as coach Steve Hansen continues his long-term planning for a successor to Richie McCaw.
The 27-year-old Read had been widely expected to be given the captaincy for at least one match on the end-of-season tour as Hansen had said he wanted every player in the 32-man squad to get game time, which would allow McCaw a rest. McCaw, 31, who led the team in their 51-22 victory over Scotland last Sunday, has dropped out of the squad altogether, with Sam Cane to start at openside flanker.
Ryan Jones will captain Wales for a record 29th time as the Six Nations Grand Slam champions bid to bounce back against Samoa at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium tonight following a convincing loss to Argentina last weekend.
Wales were left shell-shocked by their 26-12 defeat by the Pumas in Cardiff.