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Australia coach Ewen McKenzie shakes up side ahead of France Test

Updated: Tuesday, 03 Jun 2014 12:13 | Comments

McKenzie keeps an eye on his squad during training
McKenzie keeps an eye on his squad during training

Australia coach Ewen McKenzie has dumped scrumhalf Will Genia and relegated former skipper James Horwill to the bench for his side's first Test against France in Brisbane on Saturday.

McKenzie, who coached the pair at the Queensland Reds to a Super Rugby title in 2011, instead opted to reward players in form in the southern hemisphere competition for the opening clash of their international season.

The Reds have had a terrible Super Rugby season and only snapped a six-game losing streak last Friday when a converted 83rd minute Jake Schatz try gave them a 38-31 victory over the Otago Highlanders.

It was just their fourth win of the season and left them 12th in the standings, with their poor form compounded by a season-ending shoulder injury to Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper two weeks ago.

ACT Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White and New South Wales Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley will instead form an inexperienced playmaking combination against France.

White has played 10 previous Tests, starting only two, while Foley has four caps.

Scrumhalf Nic White powers through a tackle

"We function in a performance environment, and so it's important to reward those who have consistently played at a high level over the course of the season," McKenzie said in an Australian Rugby Union statement.

"Nic and Bernard are two players who have had a huge influence in the results of their provincial teams over the past two seasons.

"I've also been pleased to see their development as playmakers since getting a taste of test rugby last year and you can sense they have a real confidence in running a game.

"We have a very specific style of game we want to play - the Wallaby way - and their two skill-sets complement each other in ensuring we can deliver our gameplan on the night."

"You can sense they have a real confidence in running a game" - Australia coach Ewen McKenzie on Nic White and Bernard Foley

Horwill, who was stripped of the Australian captaincy last year by McKenzie, has been replaced by debutant Sam Carter at lock.

Hooker Stephen Moore was handed the skipper's armband earlier this week after Ben Mowen, who took over from Horwill on last year's end of season tour, was not selected in the squad due to his impending move overseas.

Utility back Kurtley Beale has returned to the squad and will make his return from the bench after disciplinary issues and then injury robbed him of much of the 2013 season.

Number eight Wycliff Palu and loosehead prop James Slipper will also have the opportunity to notch up their 50th test caps on Saturday.

Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley evades a tackle

After the Brisbane Test, Australia will play France in Melbourne and Sydney on the following weekends.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nic White, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 James Slipper.

Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 James Horwill, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Pat McCabe.   

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