Hodgson leads Wallabies against Barbarians

Newly appointed Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has named back rower Matt Hodgson as captain for Australia’s tour opening match against the Barbarians at Twickenham.

Western Force forward Hodgson has been given the responsibility of leading a team which boasts 495 Test caps in the starting line-up, and which also includes four players who will wear the green and gold jersey for the first time in 2014.

The clash against the Barbarians is an uncapped international although will see playmakers Quade Cooper and Will Genia, winger Henry Speight and backrower Sean McMahon receive their first opportunities for Australia this year.

An extended nine-man bench has also been named for the clash with one player to be omitted following Thursday afternoon’s training session in London.

Cheika said the team was looking forward to the opportunity on Saturday.

“We’ve worked really hard this week on ensuring our team has a clear understanding of how we want to play, next is to transfer this into the game on Saturday,” Cheika said.

“You sense they’re all looking forward to the opportunity against the Barbarians, and so far I’ve been impressed with the level of consistency they’ve brought to their work.

“This team contains a mix of players from our last game and also experienced players eager to push their way into the Test team. We’re all looking forward to playing our first game for Australia on this tour.”

Cheika also recognised Hodgson for his season with the Force by selecting him as captain.

“Matt has demonstrated exceptional leadership attributes at the Western Force for a long time now, and he deserves this opportunity being given to him,” he said.

“To captain your country is a huge honour and I’ve got no doubt he’ll step up and provide the team with the right direction and leadership needed against the Barbarians on Saturday.”

Hodgson will lead a backrower which includes fellow Force teammate Ben McCalman at No.8 and Scott Higginbotham at blindside flanker.

The starting tight-five for the match consists of hooker Saia Fainga’a and props Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander in the front-row, while Sam Carter and James Horwill will pack down as the two locks.

Genia and Cooper will be responsible for sparking a backline which includes Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani in the centres; Rob Horne and Henry Speight on the wings; and Israel Folau at fullback.

The match is Australia’s first of their five-game Spring Tour, which also includes matches against Wales, France, Ireland and England.

Australia (15-1)

Israel Folau; Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Rob Horne; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Ben McCalman, Matt Hodgson (capt), Scott Higginbotham; James Horwill, Sam Carter; Ben Alexander, Saia Fainga’a, Benn Robinson

Reserves: James Hanson, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Will Skelton, Sean McMahon, Nic White, Bernard Foley, Christian Leali’ifano, Joe Tomane (one to be omitted)

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