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Cheika wants Wallabies to own their spots

NZN 22/06/2017 Vince Rugari

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is demanding consistency after ringing the changes for Saturday's Test against Italy with an eye towards the almighty challenge that awaits in the Rugby Championship.

Cheika has thrown six fresh faces into his starting side for the Suncorp Stadium clash - four of them to the forward pack as he seeks a physical and decisive response to last weekend's hollow defeat to Scotland.

Skipper Stephen Moore is back after spending the past two weeks on the bench to join Scott Sio in the front row, No.8 Lopeti Timani is in line for his first appearance of the year and Rory Arnold has been promoted to restore his bruising second-row combination with Adam Coleman.

Rookie prop Tom Robertson, hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, lock Sam Carter and No.8 Scott Higginbotham have all been dumped.

Saturday's Test is Australia's last before facing New Zealand in the opening Rugby Championship match on August 19 in Sydney.

Cheika said the All Blacks were in the back of his mind but at the front was finding the right mix to beat the Azzurri and rewarding the players who he said deserved an opportunity.

"There's been some tight calls and I suppose that's the signal that the team's looking for players who want to make those spots their own," he said.

"There's a bit of giving these guys a chance to compete against each other in the series.

"We need to see players performing consistently and when they perform well, consistently, then they're automatic selections."

Arguably the biggest surprise was the elevation of Rob Horne, who has been handed a shock start at outside centre ahead of Tevita Kuridrani.

Horne will move to English side Northampton next year, putting him out of contention for the 2019 World Cup, and was not in Cheika's original squad for the June window until a late injury to Samu Kerevi (ankle).

But Cheika said the 27-year-old's form at training couldn't be ignored.

"We're missing Samu at the moment and there's some other players who I think have been going well in Super Rugby (like) Curtis Rona, Tom English," he said.

"But I think you've got to earn that jersey and Rob Horne, since I've seen him in camp, I think he has."

The other change is on the left wing where Eto Nabuli makes way for another Fijian flyer, Sefa Naivalu.

Cheika said there was not even a second's thought of letting Moore's deputy, Michael Hooper, remain as run-on captain after serving in that role against Fiji and Scotland.

"Moore comes in, he stays captain. It doesn't mean Hooper stops leading," he said.

Wallabies: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Rob Horne, Karmichael Hunt, Sefa Naivalu, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Lopeti Timani, Michael Hooper, Ned Hanigan, Adam Coleman, Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Stephen Moore (capt), Scott Sio.

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