Wallabies drop skipper Moore for Fiji Test


Melbourne (AFP)

Skipper Stephen Moore was dropped Thursday for the Wallabies clash against Fiji with veteran hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau preferred in a team featuring two players on their debut including code-hopper Karmichael Hunt.

Michael Hooper will lead Australia in Saturday's showdown in Melbourne, with Hunt and Waratahs backrower Ned Hanigan winning their first caps.

Coach Michael Cheika said Polota-Nau earned his place with sizzling form this season.

"Tatafu has been challenging Stephen for the number two jersey for many years and his form has warranted his selection," he said, adding that despite missing out Moore remained a key part of the set-up.

"Stephen is our captain and he'll be up to the challenge of what both Tatafu and Tolu (Llatu) will bring this series."

Cheika said Hooper was the natural choice to take the skipper's armband.

"We're growing a young leadership team within our side and Michael is a key man in this," he said.

"His leadership at the Tahs has been exceptional this year and we expect the same on Saturday for a big home Test against a very strong Fiji side."

Hunt was named at inside centre for Australia's first Test of the year and will become a dual international with 11 rugby league Tests. He only switched to union in 2015 after four years in Australian Rules.

Hanigan, 22, will start at blindside flanker, barely a year since making his Super Rugby debut, while his Queensland Reds teammate Scott Higginbotham returns after a two-year absence at No8.

"I have been very pleased with some of the individual performances this season and this has really been the basis of many of these selections," said Cheika.

"It's been great to see the energy that Ned and Karmichael have brought this week. We know Test footy is a different beast and I know they have what it takes to step up."

The Wallabies will name their bench after training on Friday, with games against Scotland and Italy to follow this month.

Australia (15-1)

Israel Folau; Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Karmichael Hunt, Henry Speight; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper (capt), Ned Hanigan; Adam Coleman, Sam Carter; Allan Alaalatoa, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson