Saturday 16 December 2017

O'Connor given fly-half role

James O'Connor will make his first Test match start at fly-half when Australia face Wales in Cardiff tomorrow.

The goal-kicking wing impressed as the Wallabies' No 10 against the Barbarians at Twickenham last weekend, and coach Robbie Deans has retained him in that pivotal role.

Elsewhere, centre Berrick Barnes has recovered from a blow to his back to start alongside Rob Horne in midfield, while Rob Simmons replaces Nathan Sharpe at lock.

Simmons for Sharpe is the only change up-front from when the countries last met 41 days ago in the World Cup bronze medal match at Eden Park, when Australia triumphed 21-18.

Wales will be keen to avenge that defeat, which is a fact not lost on Deans.

"(Wales coach) Warren (Gatland) will be looking for his group to push on from the World Cup," Deans said.

"And this match provides him with a perfect opportunity to do just that, as a springboard heading into the next Six Nations."

AUSTRALIA (team v Wales) -- A Ashley-Cooper; L Turner, R Horne, B Barnes, D Ioane; J O'Connor, W Genia; J Slipper, T Polota-Nau, S Ma'afu; J Horwill (capt), R Simmons; S Higginbotham, D Pocock, B McCalman. Replacements: S Moore, B Alexander, N Sharpe, R Samo, B Lucas, B Tapuai, A Fainga'a.

Irish Independent

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