Rugby Championship 2015: Matt Giteau returns for Australia

Influential Toulon star to make first Wallabies apperance in four years against South Africa in Brisbane

Matt Giteau will make his first start for Australia in four years on Saturday in their 2015 Rugby Championship opener against South Africa in Brisbane.

The 32-year-old Toulon star’s 93rd appearance for the Wallabies will be from inside centre just months after the Australian Rugby Union watered down its policy on selecting overseas-based players.

Matt is a true professional and his impact on the team dynamic has been immediate. His form in Toulon and work ethic since joining the squad has been first class

Michael Cheika

Head coach Michael Cheika’s first team of 2015 features a number of changes from the side that lost to England at Twickenham in November as they begin their Rugby World Cup preparations with a shortened Rugby Championship ahead of a final warm-up against rivals New Zealand next month.

Joining Giteau in the backline are Queensland Reds duo Quade Cooper and Will Genia, who start at outside-half and scrum-half together for the first time since November 2013.

The only other change to the backline sees Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani start alongside Giteau in the midfield with centurion Adam Ashley-Cooper moving to the right wing vacated by the suspended Henry Speight, while Israel Dagg continues at full-back with Rob Horne keeping his place on the left wing

“With new combinations comes a new level of energy to our team environment and Will, Quade and Matthew certainly bring that,” Cheika said.

“Matt is a true professional and his impact on the team dynamic has been immediate.

“His form in Toulon and work ethic since joining the squad has been first class.”

Up front, Stephen Moore returns at hooker as captain alongside loosehead prop James Slipper and Sekope Kepu at tighthead.

Will Skelton and Rob Simmons link up in the second row with blindside Scott Fardy joined in the back row by Michael Hooper at openside and Scott Higginbotham at number eight.

Former Wallabies captain James Horwill joins by David Pocock among the forwards on the bench with half-backs Nick Pipps and Matt Toomua, who started against England, covering the backs with Toulon winger Drew Mitchell, another beneficiary of the ARU’s new overseas policy.

Australia: Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Rob Horne; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; James Slipper, Stephen Moore (captain), Sekope Kepu, Will Skelton, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Scott Higginbotham.

Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio, Greg Holmes, James Horwill, David Pocock; Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Drew Mitchell.

South Africa: Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard (Vodacom Bulls), Ruan Pienaar; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield (captain), Francois Louw, Marcell Coetzee, Schalk Burger.

Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Heinke van der Merwe, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Oupa Mohoje; Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo.

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