7 Nov 2008

Changes to Wallabies for Italy match

6:12 am on 7 November 2008

The Wallabies have made wholesale changes, including the selection of a prop who has never started a professional match, for Sunday morning's rugby test against Italy in Padua.

Coach Robbie Deans made eight changes to the starting side that lost to New Zealand in Hong Kong last weekend, giving some of his second-stringers the chance to impress while saving his top players for next week's clash with England at Twickenham.

Deans also included three uncapped players, prop Sekope Kepu, flyhalf Quade Cooper and 18-year-old fullback James O'Connor, on his reserves bench.

Loosehead prop Ben Alexander, who has made just two appearances for Australia off the bench and has never even started a Super 14 match, was included in the run-on team for the first time.

He was among four changes to the starting forward pack, which has been the weakest link in Australian rugby for the past few years.

Openside flanker Phil Waugh, looshead prop Matt Dunning and lock Hugh McMeniman were also called up, leaving number eight Richard Brown, lock Mark Chisholm and hooker Stephen Moore as the only survivors from Hong Kong.

The backline also featured four changes with inside centre Timana Tahu joining skipper Stirling Mortlock in the midfield while wings Lachie Turner and Digby Ioane both earned recalls.

Utility back Berrick Barnes, making his first run-on appearance since returning from injury, was picked at flyhalf despite normally playing at inside centre.