Deans sticks with champs

Australia have named the same starting XV that toppled the All Blacks for their opening World Cup clash with Italy on Sunday. [more]

Deans sticks with champs

Australia have named the same starting XV that toppled the All Blacks for their opening World Cup clash with Italy on Sunday.

Coach Robbie Deans has seen no need to make any changes from the team that secured a first Tri Nations title in a decade with a 25-20 win over the globe’s number one ranked nation a week-and-a-half ago.

The decision to stick with what worked in Brisbane means 35-year-old Radike Samo retains his place at No8 after an impressive showing at Lang Park.

Until 11 days ago, Samo hadn’t started a Test match for seven seasons but his try-scoring effort against the All Blacks ensured it would have been a surprise if he had been dropped for the game against the Italians.

The major talking point surrounds the exclusion of star wing James O’Connor, who has failed to persuade Deans that he should be handed an immediate recall following his disciplinary problems.

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The 22-year-old was suspended by the Australian Rugby Union for the Tri Nations decider after missing the official Wallaby World Cup squad announcement following a night out.

O’Connor has been called up to the bench but Deans has kept faith with Reds centre Anthony Fainga'a who produced a hugely physical display against Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith last time out.

Fainga will be making just his third Test start, with previous first-choice No13 Adam Ashley Cooper remaining on the right wing.

The Wallabies head to Auckland in high spirits following three wins from four Tri Nations fixtures and a first piece of notable silverware since 2001 but Deans isn’t taking the Italians lightly.

“They’re a good team,” said Deans, whose side also face Ireland, the United States and Russia in Pool C.

“They showed it when they beat France earlier in the year, they should have beaten Ireland in that tournament as well, and have also shown it playing against Australia in recent years.

“Their belief in terms of being able to perform more consistently at this level is growing. They’ll be determined to make a statement first up in this tournament, and will see this as a great time to be getting us.

“As a jump off point for the tournament, this match is critical. Italy will test us, especially at the set piece. If we are not up to the mark in all aspects of our game, we will be vulnerable. We have recent experience of that earlier in the year against Samoa.”

Australia (vs Italy, Auckland, Sunday, 4.30am BST)

15. Kurtley Beale
14. Adam Ashley-Cooper
13. Anthony Faingaa
12. Pat McCabe
11. Digby Ioane
10. Quade Cooper
9. Will Genia

1. Sekope Kepu
2. Stephen Moore
3. Ben Alexander
4. Dan Vickerman
5. James Horwill (c)
6. Rocky Elsom
7. David Pocock
8. Radike Samo

Replacements

16. Tatafu Polota-Nau
17. James Slipper
18. Rob Simmons
19. Ben McCalman
20. Scott Higginbotham
21. Luke Burgess
22. James O'Connor

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