Wallabies let 'Rodzilla' loose on England

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The Independent Online

And we thought England were inexperienced. Australia, outscrummaged to the point of humiliation at Twickenham last November, will go in search of their lost machismo here on Sunday with the aid of a new front-row unit boasting only three caps between them - the greenest combination to wear the green-and-gold jersey for very nearly a quarter of a century.

They are not particularly young: Tai McIsaac, who beat the long-serving Jeremy Paul and the widely backed Adam Freier to the hooking spot, makes his Test debut at 31. They are, however, very definitely unfamiliar.

Rodney Blake - "Rodzilla", as he has been christened by those Queenslanders who take pleasure in his 20st charges with ball in hand - is another debutant on the tight-head side, while Greg Holmes, one of several Wallaby props reduced to dust in London seven months ago, has been entrusted with the loose-head chores.

England may go in fear of an Australian back division, but they will not require sleeping tablets as a result of their opponents' selection in the grunt-and-groan department. The Wallaby coaching team features two former front-rowers in John Connolly and Michael Foley, and as a result they will inevitably up their nation's act at the set piece. But they remain nervous about confronting an English scrum propped by the two Leicester veterans, Graham Rowntree and Julian White.

"We've gone for McIsaac because he has a slightly stronger scrummaging game," Connolly said. "We understand the challenge we face in this department. Last November, the England props were Andrew Sheridan and Phil Vickery. Rowntree and White may not have the round-the-field games of those blokes, but they're even stronger in the scrums."

Australia have revamped their back row, too, naming the single-capped Daniel Heenan on the blind-side flank and shifting Rocky Elsom to No 8. This will be one of the biggest Wallaby packs ever to take the field.

England have ruled out James Simpson-Daniel, who was undergoing hospital treatment yesterday after suffering a severe blow to his leg. He will also miss the second Test in Melbourne.

Australia (v England, Telstra Stadium, Sydney, Sunday, 11am): C Latham (Queensland Reds); M Gerrard (ACT Brumbies), S Mortlock (Brumbies), M Rogers (NSW Waratahs), L Tuqiri (Waratahs); S Larkham (Brumbies), G Gregan (Brumbies, capt); G Holmes (Queensland), T McIsaac (Western Force), R Blake (Queensland), N Sharpe (Western Force), D Vickerman (Waratahs), D Heenan (Brumbies), G Smith (Brumbies), R Elsom (Waratahs). Replacements: J Paul (Brumbies), A Baxter (Waratahs), M Chisholm (Brumbies), P Waugh (Waratahs), J Valentine (Queensland), C Rathbone (Brumbies), C Shepherd (Western Force).