Matt Hodgson will captain of the uncapped international hitout while Quade Cooper and Will Genia will make long-awaited returns alongside a couple of debutants in Australia’s first of five Spring Tour Tests in Europe.
“Matt has demonstrated exceptional leadership attributes at the Western Force for a long time now, and he deserves this opportunity being given to him,” Cheika said of the 33-year-old flanker in a statement.
“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 (local time).”
Five-eighth Cooper and halfback Genia are coming off stints on the sidelines following surgery and are set to make their first appearances for Australia this year.
Fijian-born winger Henry Speight has overcome the hamstring injury that has delayed his Wallabies debut following a four-year battle to gain Australian international eligibility. The Brumbies flyer will be joined by 20-year-old Melbourne Rebels flanker Sean McMahon for their first appearances in Aussie colours.
“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, little more than a week into his role as coach.
“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.”
Wallabies squad: Israel Folau, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Rob Horne, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Ben McCalman, Matt Hodgson, 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)
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images