PADUA, Italy (Reuters) - Veteran back Adam Ashley-Cooper will return to the Australia team for the first time in more than two years after being named, along with two debutants, in the side to face Italy in Padua on Saturday.
The 18-year-old wing Jordan Petaia will make his debut, becoming Australia’s third youngest test player, while halfback Jake Gordon also gets a first outing.
Coach Michael Cheika, whose side have won three of 11 tests played this season, on Thursday announced six changes from the team beaten 9-6 by Wales in Cardiff last weekend.
Petaia was called up last month after Reece Hodge injured his ankle and has a chance to enhance a growing reputation. Only Brian Ford (18 years and 90 days) in 1957 and James O’Connor (18 years and 126 days) in 2008 were younger when they made their test debuts for Australia.
Scrumhalf Gordon has jumped the queue ahead of Waratahs’ club mate Nick Phipps.
Ashley-Cooper, 34, won a surprise recall for the November tour of Europe and has an opportunity to stake a claim for a place in next year’s World Cup squad after being selected on the wing in a backline shakeup.
It is his first test since a 29-9 defeat by world champions New Zealand in Wellington in August 2016.
Israel Folau moves from wing to fullback, Bernard Foley from flyhalf to centre and Matt To’omua comes in at flyhalf for the Wallabies.
In the frontrow, Allan Alaalatoa and Tolu Latu have been dropped with Taniela Tupou and Folau Fainga’a taking their places.
The rest of the pack remains unchanged despite a bruising encounter in Cardiff last Saturday.
Team: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13-Samu Kerevi, 12-Bernard Foley, 11-Jordan Petaia, 10-Matt To’omua, 9-Jake Gordon, 8-David Pocock, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-Jack Dempsey, 5-Adam Coleman, 4-Izack Rodda, 3-Taniela Tupou, 2-Folau Fainga’a, 1-Scott Sio
Replacements: 16-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17-Jermaine Ainsley 18-Sekope Kepu, 19-Rory Arnold, 20-Pete Samu, 21-Will Genia, 22-Kurtley Beale, 23-Dane Haylett-Petty.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Toby Davis