Wallabies ready for Testing time in Brisbane
MUCH of the talk before tonight's Wallabies v Springboks Test at Suncorp Stadium has focused on the Australian playmakers, and how well Matt Giteau has fitted back in at training.
Toulon-based Giteau will run out at inside centre for his first Test in four years, with a recent club eligibility rules tweak allowing him to once again represent his country, for the 93rd time.
Star Reds duo Will Genia and Quade Cooper will also re-unite at international level to offer plenty of attacking creativity, at halfback and five-eighth, respectively.
But it is the back-row battle that could well decide the outcome of tonight's match - the first of Australia's 2015 Rugby Championship campaign - with the World Cup in England and Wales to follow.
The South African back row of champion No.8 Schalk Burger (back from a groin strain and with Duane Vermeulen injured), Marcell Coetzee, and Francois Louw is a highly astute one, and proven at the breakdown.
Wallabies back-rowers Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper and Scott Higginbotham will have their hands full, with Australia captain and hooker Stephen Moore admitting as much.
"They're all quality players. You've got two guys who are hard on the ball, and Burger I think is a bit of a talisman for them," he said.
"At the Stormers he lifts the guys around him. He's a class act and has been for a long time.
"We're not surprised to see him in the side there and that's going to be a big test for us."
An ace up the Wallabies' sleeve, however, is its interchange bench.
It will feature world-renowned Brumbies flanker David Pocock, who will make his long-awaited return to Test rugby, after missing the past two international seasons through injury.
"I think it's a quality bench and that's what we want - we want those guys to come on and win the game for us, and have a real impact," Moore said.
"At any one point you can throw someone into the game and they'll do a job."
Moore is back in the international arena for the first time in 12 months - he will play his 93rd Test after undergoing a knee reconstruction last year.
He said Wallabies coach Michael Cheika had been hard on his forward pack showing a toughness and physical presence up front, to set up an impressive backline, including powerful duo Tevita Kuridrani and Israel Folau.
"If we want our backs to get quality ball we're under no illusions of our role up front," Moore said.
"Our scrums, line-outs and defence have got to be spot on."
TEAM: James Slipper, Stephen Moore (capt), Sekope Kepu, Will Skelton, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, (vice capt), Scott Higginbotham, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Rob Horne, Matt Giteau, Tevita Kuridrani, Adam Ashley-Cooper (vice capt), Israel Folau. Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio, Greg Holmes, James Horwill, David Pocock, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Drew Mitchell.
WALLABIES V SPRINGBOKS
Suncorp Stadium, 8pm