Aucklander Will Skelton set for Wallabies debut

Last updated 14:55 17/06/2014
Will Skelton
ALL SMILES: Will Skelton was born in Auckland but will make his debut for the Wallabies on Saturday against France.

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Australia coach Ewen McKenzie has made two changes to the Wallabies' starting lineup for their final match of the series against France.

With the three-test series clinched, New South Wales lock Will Skelton will make his test debut in the afternoon match Saturday at Sydney.

In the other change, Skelton's Waratahs teammate Wycliff Palu will play at No. 8 after missing the second test with an ankle injury.

''I've been really impressed with his attitude and the contribution he's made to this team since the beginning of the series,'' McKenzie said of Auckland-born Skelton, who is also a cousin of former All Black Brad Mika.

''He's worked really hard over the past 12 months at the Waratahs on improving his match conditioning and we believe he is ready for the step-up to test rugby.''

Australia is seeking its seventh consecutive win. The Wallabies beat France 6-0 in the second match in Melbourne after a 50-23 victory in the opener in Brisbane and won their last four matches of the 2013 season in Europe.

There were two changes made on the reserves bench, with ACT Brumbies prop Scott Sio and Waratahs outside back Rob Horne coming into the 23-man side.

Horne comes in for Pat McCabe, who has suffered a nerve compression injury to his shoulder.  

Former captain James Horwill, who played his 50th test as a starter in Melbourne, is back in the reserves.

The Wallabies haven't won seven in a row since 1999-2000.

''During this stretch we've spoken a lot about ensuring we are meticulous with our preparation so that we put ourselves in the best possible position to play at a high level every week,'' McKenzie said.

''Our desire is to always play an up-tempo brand of rugby and we've now scored 23 tries in the past six games, an average of almost four a game.  

''Our defense has also been steadily improving with each match."

Australia: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins, Bernard Foley, Nic White; James Slipper, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper (captain), Wycliff Palu. Reserves: Nathan Charles, Scott Sio, Laurie Weeks, James Horwill, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne.

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- AP

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