Australia name James O’Connor at outhalf for first Test
Robbie Deans includes three debutants for Brisbane clash
James O’Connor will start at outhalf for Australia in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in Brisbane on Saturday. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Australia have picked James O’Connor at outhalf for Saturday’s opening Test against the British and Irish Lions in Brisbane with Kurtley Beale included on the bench.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has named three debutants in his starting XV in right wing Israel Folau, blindside flanker Ben Mowen and inside centre Christian Leali’ifano.
Folau is competing in his first season in professional rugby union, having already represented Australia at rugby league and played in the AFL.
Folau has been in stunning form at fullback for the Waratahs, but has been chosen on the right wing with Digby Ioane, who has recovered from knee surgery, lining up on the opposite flank.
With Beale deemed not ready to start against the Lions following his return from alcohol-related problems, Deans has opted for O’Connor at outhalf with Berrick Barnes taking the number 15 jersey.
It will be only the second time O’Connor has played a Test at 10, with the other appearance taking place alongside Will Genia against Wales in 2011.
Scrumhalf Genia and the selection of Adam Ashley-Cooper were the two certainties in the Wallaby backline, with the presence of Leali’ifano one of the main talking points in the build up to tonight’s team announcement.
The 25-year-old playmaker also features at outhalf for the ACT Brumbies and has edged the more defensive Pat McCabe to form a centre partnership with Ashley-Cooper.
Leali’ifano’s inclusion indicates the Wallabies are seeking to play a more expansive game against the Lions at the Suncorp Stadium.
AUSTRALIA: Berrick Barnes (Waratahs); Israel Folau (Waratahs), Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs), Christian Leali’ifano (Brumbies), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds); James O’Connor (Melbourne Rebels), Will Genia (Queensland Reds); Benn Robinson (Waratahs), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Ben Alexander (Brumbies); Kane Douglas (Waratahs), James Horwill (Queensland Reds, capt); Ben Mowen (Brumbies), Michael Hooper (Waratahs), Wycliff Palu (Waratahs).
Replacements: Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds), James Slipper (Queensland Reds), Sekope Kepu (Waratahs), Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds), Liam Gill (Queensland Reds), Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels), Pat McCabe (Brumbies), Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels).