James O'Connor has been named on the wing for the Wallabies. Picture: Dan Peled/AAP
A new era begins for Australia on Saturday night, with Ewen McKenzie taking charge of the Wallabies for the first time against New Zealand in the opening fixture of the 2013 Rugby Championship, following a disappointing 2-1 series defeat to the British and Irish Lions earlier this year.
The former Queensland mentor has wasted little time in putting his stamp on the team either, naming five new faces in his first 23-man squad, with Matt Toomua edging out Quade Cooper and James O’Connor for the contentious number ten jersey. Cooper returns to the national setup on the bench, while Robbie Dean’s experiment with O’Connor has been scrapped with the 23 year-old moving back onto the wing.
Robbie Deans was criticised for not picking the best available team throughout his tenure as Wallabies boss, but Ewen McKenzie has rewarded the players that performed best in the Super Rugby competition. Ten players from the Brumbies side that reached the final are set to feature including debutants Scott Sio, Scott Fardy, Nic White and Tevita Kuridrani who are all on the bench.
All Black legend Richie McCaw returns to lead the visitors into battle after missing New Zealand's series whitewash of France in June, but Dan Carter has been ruled out after picking up a calf strain at training earlier in the week. Two-time Super Rugby winning playmaker Aaron Cruden has been named to take his place at flyhalf, while Julian Savea and Aaron Smith are other new faces in the back line. Steve Luatua and Tony Woodcock are in the starting pack with Liam Messam and Wyatt Crockett missing through injury.
The Wallabies have struggled against the All Blacks in recent times, winning just two of the past 17 matches between the pair, although the sides played out an 18-18 draw at Suncorp Stadium in their most recent meeting. Australia has won six of the twelve matches between the teams at the ground.
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