WILL GENIA HAS been dropped by Australia ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash against Argentina in Perth.
Coach Ewen McKenzie’s shock decision to axe Genia, widely considered the best scrum-half in the world, is one of two changes to Australia’s starting side following Saturday’s disastrous 38-12 loss to South Africa.
Brumbies rookie Nic White will make his run-on debut in the number nine jumper in place of Genia.
Ben Alexander returns at starting tighthead prop forcing Sekope Kepu to the reserves, while lock Sitaleki Timani and centre Tevita Kuridrani replace Liam Gill and Jesse Mogg on the bench.
Brumbies flanker Ben Mowen will captain the side in the absence of Genia and injured skipper James Horwill (hamstring), becoming the 80th man to captain the Wallabies.
McKenzie admits it was tough to bench Genia but says White deserves his opportunity after a standout campaign for the Brumbies.
“The fact that Will has captained his country shows what high regard we hold him in and while he is naturally disappointed I also know how competitive he is and I’ve got no doubts he will train himself to a standstill to bounce back as a better player,” McKenzie said of the 47-Test veteran.
“We’ve spoken about what areas we believe he can continue to improve and evolve his game and he was receptive to going back and addressing those things.
“In the end, it wasn’t an easy decision because he is undoubtedly a world class player.
“However, we also feel Nic has earned an opportunity to start and will add his own uniqueness and point of difference to how we want to play this game.”
White, 22, made his debut against the All Blacks in Sydney last month and has come off the bench in each of the Wallabies’ three Rugby Championship losses this campaign.
Australia enter Saturday’s clash against the Pumas on the bottom of the Rugby Championship ladder, having failed to earn a single point in their first three matches.
A defiant McKenzie says he remains committed to playing ‘smart’ and ‘attractive’ rugby despite three consecutive losses to start his Test coaching career.
“We made it clear before our first game against New Zealand that this group had very strong ideas around how they wanted to approach and play each game,” McKenzie said.
“Australian rugby is renowned for smart, attractive and running rugby and there is a continued determination from the coaching staff and players to play with ambition and flair.
“We aren’t moving away from this philosophy.
“Within this framework though we’ve worked hard during the week to provide the team with further clarity on certain areas to ensure we are making smarter decisions in different parts of the field.”
Argentina, meanwhile, have made five chances to their starting line-up for the match in Perth. Winger Juan Imhoff comes back into the side in place of the injured Gonzalo Comacho.
The other four changes are unforced, with scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli forcing Martin Landajo to the bench, while veteran Felipe Contepomi and London Welsh-based Gonzalo Tiesi form a new-look centre pairing. The is one change in the engine room, with Agustin Creevy elevated to starting hooker, forcing Eusebio Guinazu to the bench.
Australia: 1. James Slipper, 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Ben Alexander, 4. Rob Simmons, 5. Kane Douglas, 6. Scott Fardy, 7. Michael Hooper, 8. Ben Mowen (c), 9. Nic White, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Nick Cummins, 12. Christian Leali’ifano, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14. James O’Connor, 15. Israel Folau.
Replacements: 16. Saia Fainga’a, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Sekope Kepu, 19. Sitaleki Timani, 20. Ben McCalman, 21. Will Genia, 22. Matt Toomua, 23. Tevita Kuridrani.
Argentina: 1 – Marcos Ayerza, 2 – Agustin Creevy, 3 – Juan Figallo, 4 – Manuel Carizza, 5 – Julio Farias Cabello, 6 – Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 7 – Pablo Matera, 8 – Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 9 – Tomas Cubelli, 10 – Nicolas Sanchez, 11 – Juan Imhoff, 12 – Felipe Contepomi, 13 – Gonzalo Tiesi, 14 – Horacio Agulla, 15 – Juan Martin Hernandez.
Replacements: 16 – Eusebio Guinazu, 17 – Nahuel Lobo, 18 – Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 – Mariano Galarza, 20 – Benjamín Macome, 21 – Martín Landajo, 22 – Santiago Fernandez, 23- Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.