Rugby

Australia rugby union coach reboots for Italy clash

Michael Cheika (centre) has made six changes for Australia's match against Italy.
Michael Cheika (centre) has made six changes for Australia's match against Italy. Reuters/David Gray

Australia coach Michael Cheika announced six changes on Thursday to the team for Saturday's Test match against Italy in Brisbane. Stephen Moore returns to captain the Wallabies. The 34-year-old replaces Tatafu Polota-Nau as hooker in what will be his 120th game for his country.

Advertising

"Moore's obviously the captain of the team and he's got a lot of experience," Cheika said. "Polota-Nau's still putting out a big challenge to him and I want to give Moore the chance to respond.

"It's Moore's chance to get back in the starting boots and Polota-Nau's opportunity to finish from the bench, if he gets selected as a finisher."

Moore will become the 10th most-capped international player, surpassing the Italian Martin Castrogiovanni and England's Jason Leonard in his 120th Test.

The hooker is 19 games away from emulating Australia's Test record held by George Gregan with 139.

Horne in defence

Moore is unlikely to be given the chance to emulate Gregan if there is a collective repeat of last week's performance against Scotland which Australia lost 24-19.

"It's a big week, no doubt, particularly after last week," Moore said. "The game can't come quick enough for everyone."

Cheika made three other changes in the forward line, with ACT Brumbies pair, prop Scott Sio and lock Rory Arnold, joined by Lopeti Timani at No.8 in place of prop Tom Robertson, lock Sam Carter and No.8 Scott Higginbotham.

Sefa Naivalu and Rob Horne will start in defence.

Of the pair, Horne's inclusion is a surprise. The 27-year-old has not appeared for his country since last year. He has also ruled himself out of contention for the 2019 World Cup squad by deciding to play in England at Northampton thereby falling foul of the eligibility rules for the Test squads.

Australia have never lost to Italy in their 16 encounters. They won their last clash 50-20 in November 2013 in Turin.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning