Force duo on bench for Wallabies
Matt Hodgson at Wallabies training. Pic: Getty Images

Western Force captain Matt Hodgson joins teammate prop Pek Cowan on the Wallabies bench for Saturday’s clash with South Africa at Patersons Stadium.

If Hodgson is called up it will be his seventh Test and his first appearance since July 2011 when, ironically, he played against the Springboks.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has made three changes to the starting side with a new playmaking partnership in scrum-half Nick Phipps and fly-half Bernard Foley.

James Hanson starts at hooker after the injury to Force rake Nathan Charles in the last Test.

Kurtley Beale will be used off the bench while the retirement of Pat McCabe has brought a further reshuffle to the backline with vice-captain Adam Ashley Cooper shifting back to the wing and Tevita Kuridrani getting a call-up at outside centre.

McKenzie has opted for a forward-heavy 6-2 split on the bench with second row James Horwill hooker Saia Fainga’a getting their first opportunities for the year.

McKenzie said the changes reflected the different challenge they would face against South Africa.

“While the size of the challenge isn’t any easier this week, the South Africans do play a unique brand of Rugby which we will need to adjust to,” McKenzie said.

“That’s reflected in our selections somewhat, where we feel the partnership of Nick and Bernard will best suit the style of game we’ll be trying to play.

“They’ve got a proven combination at a Super Rugby level and we look forward to seeing how that translates into the Test environment.

“It’s naturally disappointing for the two guys who missed out on the starting team in Nic and Kurtley, but the reality is we have a lot of good players in those playmaking positions.

“We expect them to respond in a positive manner and to make an impact playing an important role in how we close out the match.”

McKenzie said the bench would be important against the South Africans.

“We’ve been really impressed with the variety South Africa has brought to their game in recent times, but traditionally they are a forward-orientated side which uses their size, power and set-piece to put pressure on the opposition,” he said.

“You have to confront that head-on and match fire with fire. The addition of an extra forward also offers us greater flexibility in how we approach our substitutions.

“James has been working really hard to push his way back into the match day squad, and I’ve been really impressed with how he has gone about his work. He will also bring the added benefit of giving us an additional lineout jumping option when he’s on the field.

“Matt Hodgson also deserves a special mention. He’s been doing everything he can on and off the field to get an opportunity, and has been the ultimate team man in the process. We look forward to seeing what he’ll bring to the match.”

Wallabies: James Slipper, James Hanson, Sekope Kepu, Sam Carter, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper (capt), Wycliff Palu, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Rob Horne, Matt Toomua, Tevita Kuridrani, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Israel Folau. Reserves: Saia Fainga’a, Pek Cowan, Ben Alexander, James Horwill, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, Nic White, Kurtley Beale.

The West Australian

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