James O'Connor included in Australia line-up for Bledisloe Cup opener

James O'Connor gets his first start for Australia since 2013
James O'Connor gets his first start for Australia since 2013

Australia head coach Michael Cheika has included James O'Connor in the starting line-up for the Bledisloe Cup opener against New Zealand to be played in Perth this weekend.

The 29-year-old was among the replacements during the second round clash against Argentina on what was his first game for the Wallabies in six years but now has been named at 13 replacing Tevita Kuridrani.

Allan Alaalatoa also returns from injury to feature for the first time for Australia this year with Sekope Kepu dropping out of the matchday squad. Adam Coleman also has recovered from shoulder and calf injuries to join the reserves.

Christian Lealiifano will retail the fly-half position and will form a halfback partnership with Nic White while the final change sees Tolu Latu gaining promotion and swapping place with Folau Fainga’a, who now joins the replacement list.

“It’s a different set-up in the midfield,” said Cheika.

“Samu and Tevita have played together there over the first couple of games and they’ll present a certain picture those two lads, and I think James will bring something a little bit different that we haven’t seen, so definitely our opponents won’t have seen it either.

“He seems to have handled it pretty well in training. I am looking forward to seeing him out there.”

Australia line-up: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Reece Hodge, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nic White, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio

Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Luke Jones, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Tom Banks