Australia makes 6 changes for US match
Updated: September 20, 2011, 23:44
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WELLINGTON, New Zealand(AP) Scrumhalf Will Genia will captain an Australian team featuring six changes from its loss to Ireland in Friday's Rugby World Cup Pool C match against the United States.
The 23-year-old Genia, who will pair again with Queensland Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper, will become Australia's 78th test captain in its 528th test match and the 13th player to lead Australia in a World Cup match.
Seven of those 13 players have been Queenslanders, including the Wallabies' current first-choice captain, lock James Horwill, who is being rested in Friday's match because of a shoulder injury.
"It's a huge honor, a big responsibility and an occasion that I'm really looking forward to,'' Genia said.
"We've got a big job ahead of us. The United States showed against Ireland that they are a totally committed opponent and our own performance against Ireland, who was not up to the high standards we set for ourselves, will only have offered the Americans further encouragement.''
Rob Horne has been named at inside center among two backline changes for Friday's match, and will pull on the Wallabies jersey for the first time since Australia's Tri-Nations test against New Zealand in Melbourne last year.
Drew Mitchell will start on the left wing in place of James O'Connor, who has a hamstring strain, while Adam Ashley-Cooper will switch from the left wing to the right.
The team named by coach Robbie Deans on Wednesday contains four changes among the forwards to the run-on side which faced Ireland last Saturday.
Scott Higginbotham was initially named to play on the blindside flank but was forced to withdraw after suffering a slight back injury in training on Wednesday.
Coach Robbie Deans said the injury happened at the start of contact training and team medical staff had advised him Higginbotham is likely to be sidelined for days rather than weeks.
Other players not considered because of injury included winger Digby Ioane, with a broken thumb flanker David Pocock, with a back strain.
The Wallabies had hoped Pocock might be fit, after missing the match against Ireland, but he is being given more time to fully recover. In his absence, Ben McCalman will start at openside, as he did against Ireland, and Rocky Elsom will back up on the blindside as a late replacement for Higginbotham.
Wycliff Palu joins the starting lineup at No. 8.
Nathan Sharpe and Rob Simmons will team in the second row and James Slipper will start a test for the first time this year at loosehead prop, joining tighthead Ben Alexander and hooker Tatafu Palota-Nau who were part of the Wallabies' unimpressive scrummaging performance against Ireland.
Four players from last weekend's starting lineup, center Pat McCabe, No. 8 Radike Samo, lock Dan Vickerman and prop Sekope Kepu, have been named on the bench. They are joined by hooker Stephen Moore, who has recovered from the stomach ailment which prevented him taking the field against Ireland, scrumhalf Luke Burgess and utility Berrick Barnes.
Deans said he had chosen the best combination available from players who are "fit and able.''
"It's our second six-day turnaround in a row so we're looking to freshen things up a bit,'' he said.
"We are according the USA full respect by opting for the changes we have made in order to have a totally fresh and focused team.
"The responsibility at the Rugby World Cup was always going to fall on the whole group both in preparation and on match day and that's what's happening here. We trust all of our players, which is why we are prepared to make the changes that we have for such an important match.''
Horne, especially, is itching to get onto the field in Australia's third Pool C match.
"I'm ready to get into the playing gear,'' he said. "I'm just looking forward to it to get out there and resume.
"Sitting and watching the guys, it's not what you want to do as a player.''
Australia: Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Anthony Fainga'a, Rob Horne, Drew Mitchell, Quade Cooper, Will Genia (captain); Wycliff Palu, Ben McCalman, Rocky Elsom, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper. Reserves: Stephen Moore,
Sekope Kepu, Dan Vickerman, Radike Samo, Luke Burgess, Berrick Barnes, Pat McCabe.