Beale, Barnes back in reworked Wallabies squad
Updated: October 18, 2011, 23:47
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Fullback Kurtley Beale has been recalled from injury, Berrick Barnes returns at center and lock Nathan Sharpe has been selected to earn his 100th test cap for Australia in Friday's World Cup third-place playoff against Wales.
Australia coach Robbie Deans on Wednesday announced eight changes to the starting lineup that went down 20-6 to New Zealand in the semifinals last weekend, including an all-new front row in a reworked forward pack.
Beale missed the semifinal with a recurring hamstring strain, but his selection and Barnes' return in the midfield for the injured Pat McCabe gives Australia its most potent starting backline of the tournament.
Quade Cooper kept his spot at flyhalf despite poor performances in the 11-9 quarterfinal win over South Africa and the semifinal loss to top-ranked New Zealand, while Anthony Fainga'a drops to the bench to make way for Adam Ashley-Cooper's switch back to outside center to accommodate Beale.
"It's good for Quade to saddle up again from a team perspective,'' Deans said.
In the big change among the forwards, blindside flanker Rocky Elsom - who had been Australia captain until the World Cup squad was announced in August - has been omitted from the match squad.
Deans had a long injury list to consider after the semifinals, with veteran lock Dan Vickerman, hooker Stephen Moore, prop Sekope Kepu and center McCabe all hurt in the semifinals.
Sharpe, who wasn't included in the match squad for the semifinal, was moved directly into the spot vacated by Vickerman to partner captain James Horwill, with Deans deciding to keep young Reds lock Rob Simmons on the bench.
The 33-year-old Sharpe, who made his test debut against France in 2002, is attending his third World Cup.
He has been out of favor with selectors in recent seasons and, at stages, it was doubtful he would reach three figures in international rugby. However, he has endured and is set to becomes the fifth Australian to reach the milestone, behind George Gregan (139), George Smith (110), Stephen Larkham (102) and David Campese (101).
"It's a great milestone,'' Deans said. "He's a class act, Sharpie, good bloke to have in the group. He's got a huge amount of respect from his peers. He's a master of the lineout and he does a lot of work not only in game but in preparation.''
In other changes, Tatafu Polota-Nau replaces Moore as starting hooker, James Slipper comes off the bench to start at loosehead and Salesi Ma'afu joins them at tighthead prop. Ben Alexander, the only fit survivor of last weekend's frontrow, has been rested after playing 10 of the last 11 tests for Australia, but has been included on the bench.
"They'll be up for it,'' Deans said of the front row. "Salesi in particular. He's a good tighthead prop and he's been working hard throughout the tournament without much reward in terms of game time. So I've got no doubt you're going to see him bring a lot of energy to the game.''
In the backrow, Scott Higginbotham will start on the blindside flank, Ben McCalman moves into the starting XV at No. 8, with Radike Samo dropping to the bench, and David Pocock remains at openside.
Wales beat Australia 22-21 with a late converted try in the third-place playoff at the inaugural World Cup in 1987, but didn't return to the semifinals again until this tournament. The Australians won the World Cup in 1991 and '99 and were beaten in the 2003 final by Jonny Wilkinson's extra-time dropped goal for England.
Australia leads the head-to-heads 19-10, with one match drawn, although the Wallabies have won their last three World Cup matches against Wales - all in Cardiff - in '91, '99 and 2007.
Deans said he doubted Wales would be more motivated than his sdie to win the match.
"There'd be a danger if that's the case but I don't think that'll be the case for our blokes,'' he said. "They'll be up for it. They'll be excited. Obviously it's a short time from our last outing. There's still, for a large number, a hollow feeling inside, and to that end it's good to get an opportunity to get back out there so soon.''
Australia: Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Ben McCalman, David Pocock, Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe, James Horwill (captain), Salesi Ma'afu, Tatafu Polota Nau, James Slipper. Reserves: Saia Fainga'a, Ben Alexander, Rob Simmons, Radike Samo, Luke Burgess, Anthony Fainga'a, Rob Horne.