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Tuqiri to face his ‘compatriots’ in Perth

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Wallaby Coach John Connolly has made wholesale changes to his starting line-up, named on Wednesday, for the one-off test against Fiji at Subiaco Oval, in Perth, on Saturday.

Connolly said the changes have been made as part of his bid to unearth depth in his squad, with only five players retaining their place in the starting XV after last week’s 31-0 victory over Wales in Brisbane.

Fly-half Stephen Larkham, Drew Mitchell, Adam Ashley-Cooper and fullback Julian Huxley remain in the backline, while lock Dan Vickerman is the only forward in this week’s starting pack to have started the match in Brisbane.

Fijian-born winger Lote Tuqiri will make his first appearance for Australia this year, joining ‘local’ Perth favourite Mitchell to form a speedy combination on the wings for the Wallabies.

Tuqiri will play his first Test since last year’s year-end tour, after undertaking a four-week physical fitness and speed program at the completion of his Super 14 campaign with the Waratahs.

Tuqiri’s Waratahs teammate Adam Freier will make his first start in the number two jersey since June last year and will pack down in an all-Waratah front row with Matt Dunning and Al Baxter.

The 22-year-old Reds lock James Horwill is set to become the fourth Wallabies debutant this season and the 12th rookie introduced to Test rugby in the space of 12 months by Connolly, when he runs out alongside 43-Test veteran Vickerman in the second row.

Mark Chisholm makes the switch to blindside flank, where he started on three occasions for the Wallabies in 2006, while David Lyons has been awarded his first opportunity for the year at number eight.

In the backline, Connolly has switched Adam Ashley-Cooper to outside centre, awarding Scott Staniforth his first Test cap on Australian soil at inside centre.

The 129-Test veteran George Gregan will run on at scrum-half for the first time this year.

Backing him up on the reserves bench will be Sam Cordingley, who was called into the Wallabies squad on Monday after Matt Giteau was ruled out of the match with a knee injury.

The match will be the first meeting between the Wallabies and Fiji since 1998, while in sixteen meetings of the two nations, Fiji’s two Test victories over Australia have both come on Australian soil.

Connolly said the Wallabies were looking to turn their game up another notch on Saturday.

“We’re looking to improve our performances each week and that will be no different on Saturday,” said Connolly.

“This Test will be extremely important for the players involved and very important for the team as we look to establish some depth in positions in the build up to the World Cup,” he said.

“We’re expecting nothing less than a tough Test match on Saturday. The Fijians will throw everything at us and we intend to do the same in return.”

Wallabies: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Scott Staniforth, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 George Gregan (vice-captain), 8 David Lyons, 7 Phil Waugh (captain), 6 Mark Chisholm, 5 Dan Vickerman, 4 James Horwill, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Matt Dunning.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Stephen Hoiles, 19 George Smith, 20 Sam Cordingley, 21 Sam Norton-Knight, 22 Stirling Mortlock

Date: Saturday, 9 June
Venue: Subiaco Oval, Perth
Kick-off: 18.05 (20.05 AEST; 10.05 GMT)
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Paul Honiss (New Zealand), Mark Lawrence (Scotland)
Television match official: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assessor: Andrew Cole (Australia)

 

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