Pocock to captain Wallabies; O'Connor at flyhalf
Updated: November 24, 2011, 03:13
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LONDON(AP) Dynamic flanker David Pocock has moved into the leadership role and James O'Conner has shifted into the Wallabies' playmaking position for Saturday's one-off match against the Barbarians at Twickenham.
Australian selectors announced Thursday that Pocock will deputize as skipper for James Horwill, who is being rested for the Barbarians match after an arduous World Cup and Super 15 campaign with the champion Queensland Reds.
"While he ended the World Cup with a bit of a shoulder niggle, (Horwill) is in good nick, given the load that he has carried,'' Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said. "We just felt that this was a good opportunity, both to lessen the load on James, while also giving David the chance to gain experience captaining the side.''
O'Connor will move into the No. 10 jersey in the absence of regular playmaker Quade Cooper, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Australia's third-place playoff win over Wales at the World Cup last month.
After playing at wing and fullback for the Wallabies, the versatile O'Connor will get a chance to push his claims as a No. 10 after earning the starting role ahead of Berrick Barnes, who will start at inside center.
The bulk of the side which beat Wales for third place will return against the Barbarians, including seven of the eight forwards. In a reshuffled backline, Adam Ashley-Cooper starts at fullback and Rob Horne comes into the starting lineup at outside center, while Lachie Turner returns to the wing to fill the void left by O'Connor's infield shift.
Australia hasn't lost to the Barbarians since 1976, but realizes the danger posed by the invitational side after it scored wins over New Zealand and South Africa in the last two years.
"The Baabaa's results against New Zealand and South Africa have shown what is possible, and what they can bring to the occasion,'' Deans said. "They've got class players all over the field who will play without fear or inhibition. That is going to make them a very tough outfit to beat.''
Australia will play Wales in a one-off test at Cardiff a week after the Barbarians match.
Australia squad: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Lachie Turner, Rob Horne, Berrick Barnes, Digby Ioane, James O'Connor, Will Genia; Ben McCalman, David Pocock (captain), Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, Salesi Ma'afu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper. Reserves: Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, James Horwill, Dave Dennis, Matt Hodgson, Nick Phipps, Ben Tapuai.