Wellington – Winger Peter Betham will make his debut for Australia against world champions New Zealand this weekend after being named in the starting line-up by coach Ewen McKenzie on Thursday for the third Bledisloe Cup Test.
In another change forced by a rash of injuries, goal-kicking centre Christian Leali'ifano was replaced in the number 12 shirt by ACT Brumbies team mate Matt Toomua, who made his own debut at flyhalf against the All Blacks in this year's Rugby Championship.
Flanker Scott Fardy's eye injury forced another reshuffle in the back row, with Ben McCalman coming off the bench at number eight and Ben Mowen switching from the back of the scrum to the blindside flank.
Scrumhalf Will Genia, stunningly dropped from the starting line-up by McKenzie during the Rugby Championship, will win his 50th cap.
His halfback partner Quade Cooper will start at flyhalf against the country of his birth for the first time this year and is also expected to assume kicking duties.
Like Cooper, Betham was born in New Zealand and Saturday's start at Otago Stadium caps a remarkable rise for a player who was by no means a guaranteed a starter at the New South Wales Waratahs at the beginning of the season.
A powerful and dynamic runner, Betham was called up on Tuesday after injuries to Joe Tomane, Chris Feauai-Sautia and Nick Cummins and was the only fit specialist winger in the squad.
“The reality of rugby is that most players get an opportunity at the misfortune of one of their team mates, but it's about what each individual does with that opportunity that counts the most,” McKenzie said.
“That doesn't just apply to Peter but to a number of guys who are receiving a chance this week. There is no better way to make your mark than by playing well against the All Blacks.”
Australia ran in seven tries to hammer Argentina 54-17 in their last outing two weeks ago but have not beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001.
The All Blacks also earlier retained the Bledisloe Cup for the 11th successive season by beating the Wallabies in the opening two tests of the Rugby Championship.
“The All Blacks are the most consistent team in world rugby and their record proves just how formidable they are when playing at home in front of their fans,” McKenzie said.
“It was pleasing to see us take a step in the right direction against Argentina, but the test for us now is to produce that form week-in and week-out.”
Team: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13-Tevita Kuridrani, 12-Matt Toomua, 11-Peter Betham, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Will Genia, 8-Ben McCalman, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Ben Mowen, 5-James Horwill (captain), 4-Rob Simmons, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-James Slipper. Replacements: 16-Saia Fainga'a, 17-Benn Robinson, 18-Sekope Kepu, 19-Sitaleki Timani, 20-Dave Dennis, 21-Nic White, 22-Mike Harris, 23-Bernard Foley. – Reuters