Australia hand debut to New Zealand-born Curtis Rona against All Blacks
Last Updated: 17/08/17 10:47am
New Zealand-born Curtis Rona will make his Australia debut against the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship opener on Saturday.
The rugby league convert will make his first start on the left wing in Sydney in place of his Western Force team-mate Dane Haylett-Petty, who is out with a bicep injury.
Rona has played at outside-centre for most of the Super Rugby campaign and has spent just one game on the wing for the Force.
Australia head coach Michael Cheika believes Rona can make the transition from rugby league to international rugby union.
He said "He's played on the big stage before in rugby league, so I'm sure he'll handle it, no problem."
Cheika says Rona's aerial skills honed in rugby league will negate the world champions' intentions to target the Test rookie.
He added: "He's run there pretty much since we got into camp and he's looked comfortable there and he's got excellent chat from the outside in."
Rona, who makes his debut at 25, is confident he is ready,
He said: "They can say whatever they want but I know myself what I'm capable of doing and I'm feeling really confident coming into this game.
"I think I've done enough to be able to master taking the ball in the air and I'm looking forward to that."
Kurtley Beale will start at centre when he returns to the Test side for the first time since the 2015 World Cup final against New Zealand in London.
He has not played for three months since injuring his hamstring during a year-long stint with Premiership side Wasps.
Beale will start in a backline featuring fly-half Bernard Foley and full-back Israel Folau for the first time.
Beale has an extraordinary record against the All Blacks in Australia with two wins, two draws and a single defeat in five Tests since 2011.
Australia take on the All Blacks this Saturday morning from 10.30am live on Sky Sports Action.