Nathan Charles to make Wallabies debut as coach shakes up backline
Kurtley Beale replaces club-mate Bernard Foley at fly-half for opening clash against New Zealand
Coach Ewen McKenzie has shaken up Australia’s backline by returning Kurtley Beale to fly-half and throwing rookie hooker Nathan Charles into the starting side for their opening Rugby Championship match against New Zealand in Sydney on Saturday.
Beale, who played inside centre for Super Rugby champions Waratahs, has replaced his New South Wales team-mate Bernard Foley in the pivotal position for the Wallabies, who face an All Blacks side riding a 17-match winning streak.
Foley had been the Wallabies’ starting fly-half in their 3-0 series sweep of France in June with Beale coming off the bench, but the latter’s greater test experience had been a factor in his return to the first 15, McKenzie said.
“Bernard hasn’t put a foot wrong since we chose him in June, but Kurtley has really stepped up his game over the past few months and he’s consistently been one of the Waratahs’ best players every week,” McKenzie said in a statement from the team.
“He’ll bring some additional x-factor to our game. We feel that will suit our two-playmaker framework and ensure we have the right balance in those positions along with Matt Toomua.
“Kurtley’s also an experienced guy who has played 42 tests, so he will enjoy the added responsibility of wearing the number 10 jersey.”
McKenzie has also moved Adam Ashley-Cooper to centre with Pat McCabe taking his slot on the right wing.
Rob Horne has come on to the left wing for Nick Cummins, who was released from his Australian Rugby Union contract to pursue a more lucrative option in Japan.
“Adam’s never let Australia down no matter what position he plays and we know he’ll enjoy the move to a position where he has had a lot of experience at during his career,” McKenzie added.
Charles, who made his debut off the bench in the series win over France, has seen off the challenge of James Hanson and the recalled Saia Faingaa after the Wallabies faced a crisis at hooker.
Original captain Stephen Moore was ruled out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury after just one minute of the test series against France, while Tatafu Polota-Nau suffered a minor knee injury in the Super Rugby final.
Polota-Nau’s Waratahs team-mate Tole Latu then broke his arm in a club match last weekend.
Lock Sam Carter, who made an impressive debut in the first test against France, has also been restored after recovering from the ankle injury that ruled him out of the final two tests in June.
Australia line-up: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Pat McCabe, 13-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12-Matt Toomua, 11-Rob Horne, 10-Kurtley Beale, 9-Nic White, 8-Wycliff Palu, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-Scott Fardy, 5-Rob Simmons, 4-Sam Carter, 3-Sekope Kepu, 2-Nathan Charles, 1-James Slipper
Replacements (one to be omitted): James Hanson, Pek Cowan, Ben Alexander, Will Skelton, Ben McCalman, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani