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Huxley in, Baxter out

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Julian Huxley who was unwanted by the Reds at the beginning of the year has now been rewarded for his sublime Super 14 form with the Brumbies.

Huxley was named to make his debut when Wallaby coach John Connolly announced his team for Saturday’s opening Test of the 2007 mid-year series  against Wales at Telstra Stadium in Sydney.

However the positive mood in the Wallaby camp was somewhat tempered by the news that tighthead prop Al Baxter has been ruled out of the game through illness.

Baxter has been battling bronchitis during the week and on Wednesday withdrew from the weekend clash.

Baxter’s place in the starting lineup will be taken by Brumbies prop Guy Shepherdson, with Waratah Benn Robinson joining the reserves bench.

The 27-year-old Brumbies utility, Huxley, will make his Test debut at fullback, while Western Force back Drew Mitchell, Brumbies centre Adam Ashley-Cooper and Waratahs prop Matt Dunning will make their first appearances for the Wallabies since 2005.

Huxley will become the 816th player to represent the Wallabies and will have first chance to impress in the number 15 jersey in the absence of injured veteran Chris Latham.

Mitchell, who scored six tries in his ten Test appearances in 2005, makes his return to the Wallabies starting XV for the first time since the clash with Wales on the 2005 year-end tour.

Dunning, who has added eight kilograms of bulk since his last match for the Wallabies, was hoping to be re-united in the front row with his Waratahs teammate, Baxter, for the first time since the match against England on the same tour. However, Dunning will now team up with Shepherdson.

Adam Ashley-Cooper will start the match in the unfamiliar role of inside centre with Matt Giteau retaining the Wallaby number nine jersey as he did on tour last year.

Flanker Phil Waugh will Captain the team for the second time, with Wallabies co-captain Stirling Mortlock and George Smith named as vice captains for the Test.

Brumbies giant Mark Chisholm, who has played in 25 consecutive matches for the Wallabies since the start of the 2005 season, has been named alongside Nathan Sharpe at lock with Dan Vickerman to sit on the reserves bench in his return from a shoulder reconstruction.

Also making a return to Test rugby is Waratahs hooker Adam Freier who was named on the reserves bench to back up starting number two Stephen Moore.

Connolly has employed a five-two split on the bench, naming five forwards and two backs on his reserves bench.

Both sides enter the clash with unfinished business after last year’s dramatic 29-all draw at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Connolly is expecting a physical hit out with the Welsh in the first of seven winter Tests for the Wallabies.

“The squad they [Wales] have brought out is different to their Six Nations squad but they have added 200 caps of Test experience and will field a very strong team on Saturday night,” said Connolly.

“We’re expecting a very competitive Test which will give us a good starting point for the season and help us understand where we’re at as team,” he said.

“We have a strong focus on building the depth within the squad and we are very keen to see how the players perform over the course of the domestic season and Tri-Nations.”

Wallabies: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Stirling Mortlock (vice-captain), 12 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 Matt Giteau, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh (c), 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Nathan Sharpe, 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Matt Dunning.
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Dan Vickerman, 19 Stephen Hoiles, 20 George Smith (vice-captain), 21 George Gregan, 22 Scott Staniforth.

Date: Saturday, 26 May
Venue: Telstra Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 20.05 (10.05 GMT)
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