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Michael Hooper will captain the Wallabies against Fiji, with usual skipper Stephen Moore left out of the XV, in favour of Tatafu Polota-Nau.
Hooper is the only survivor from the last Wallabies forward pack lineup that played England in December, and one of just five from the run-on team that day to play against Fiji.
Force hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is lining up in the number two spot, a selection Michael Cheika said was partly based on form, just a fortnight after publicly backing Moore to be the captain for all three June Tests.
“Tatafu has been challenging Stephen for the number two jersey for many years and his form has warranted his selection. Stephen is our captain and he’ll be up to the challenge of what both Tatafu and Tolu will bring this series,” he said.
“We’re growing a young leadership team within our side and Michael is a key man in this. His leadership at the Tahs has been exceptional this year and we expect the same on Saturday for a big home Test against a very strong Fiji side.”
Moore’s omission is not the only front row surprise, with Brumbies prop Allan Alaalatoa preferred over Sekope Kepu to start in the clash.
Waratahs young gun Ned Hanigan has been named to debut at six after a whirlwind Super Rugby year, with Scott Higginbotham at number eight in his first Test since 2015.
Higginbotham was not a part of any of Cheika’s preliminary Wallabies camps but his form for the Reds has propelled him into the Wallabies fold for this Test.
Henry Speight’s form has earned him a start against his nation of birth, with Dane Haylett-Petty keeping his spot on the other wing.
Israel Folau will remain at full-back for the Wallabies as well, after cementing himself back in the 15 spot this season.
Cheika said he had looked closely at single players’ Super Rugby form in his picks for this opening Test, against what will likely be a young Fiji side.
“I have been very pleased with some of the individual performances this season and this has really been the basis of many of these selections,” he explained.
“It’s been great to see the energy that Ned and Karmichael have brought this week. We know Test footy is a different beast and I know they have what it takes to step up.”
Meanwhile, Fiji head coach John McKee has named a powerful side which includes three international debutants in Jale Vatubua, Viliame Mata and local based Kalivati Tawake.
“I have been able to select a very strong and experienced team to take on the Wallabies in Melbourne on Saturday. My congratulations go to all the players and especially the three new caps, Jale Vatubua, Viliame Mata and Kalivati Tawake,” said McKee.
“Preparation in Melbourne has been very good. I could definitely feel an increase in focus at training today as the players prepare for this important test match.
“This Test against Australia will be a big challenge for us. With this challenge comes opportunity for players to make their mark with their performance for Fiji and for all of our supporters at home and overseas.
“This challenge presents a great opportunity for Fiji to make their mark in world rugby with a top class performance against the number three nation in the world.”
“If we can be our best, individually and as a team, in this match I believe we can push Australia all the way.”
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Reece Hodge
Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Albert Vulivuli, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Akapusi Qera (c), 7 Naulia Dawai, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Peni Ravai, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Maáfu
Replacements: 16 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 17 Joeli Veitayaki, 18 Kalivati Tawake, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Viliame Mata, 21 Nemani Nagusa, 22 Seurpepeli Vularika, 23 Benito Masilevu