Australia will be back to full-strength after recalling their top players for Saturday's one-off Test against France at Sydney's Olympic stadium. The Australian captain Stirling Mortlock was among nine first-choice players recalled to the side announced yesterday. This was after the Australians had picked an under-strength team for last week's second Test against Italy in Melbourne, which still proved good enough to win comfortably 34-12.
"This is the combination we feel will serve us best this weekend," the Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said of his selection. "We got a lot out of last week's game in Melbourne and certainly weren't disappointed with the effort of any of the players involved. "That outing has allowed us to broaden our depth in terms of exposing other players to Test match conditions. "We will see the benefits of that moving forward."
Deans made four changes to the backline and five to the pack to face a French side that was impressive in their two-match series with the All Blacks before coming to Australia. They drew the series in New Zealand with one victory each, but the French won the Dave Gallaher Cup by virtue of their five-point victory in the first Test. Fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper replaces teenager James O'Connor, wing Drew Mitchell takes over from Peter Hynes, with fly-half Matt Giteau recalled at the expense of Quade Cooper while Mortlock returns at centre in place of Ryan Cross.
Number eight Richard Brown and lock Nathan Sharpe were both reinstated for David Pocock and Peter Kimlin, who played on the side of the scrum last week against the Italians. Deans also picked a new front row in props Al Baxter and Benn Robinson and hooker Stephen Moore in anticipation of Australia's hardest match so far this season. "The Barbarians and the Italians provided us with a good opening to the season, we had three quality work outs, but there is no doubt that they were a level down on what is coming," Deans said.
"You only have to look at what the French achieved in New Zealand, to see what a massive threat they will be. "There's no doubt that what we have produced so far this year won't be good enough moving forward." * Reuters