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Emirates Western Force winger Nick Cummins will make his Test debut for the Wallabies in their final Rugby Championship fixture against Argentina in Rosario on Saturday night (7.10am, Sunday morning, AWST).
Cummins, who celebrates his 25th birthday today, becomes the 11th new cap, and the 38th player to represent Australia in the 10th Test of the year, after being selected on the wing in the run-on side.
The man known as ‘The Honey Badger’ starred in the Emirates Western Force backline during the 2012 Super Rugby season, starting in the 14 matches he played during the season and crossing for three tries.
The popular winger also registered his 50th Super Rugby cap for the Emirates Western Force in the 17-11 win over the Lions in Week 14.
The national selection continues a big year for the Cummins family that has already seen Nick’s aunt, Margie, win this year’s series of The Biggest Loser, shedding more than 70 kilograms, while his father, Mark, was named 2012 Queensland Father of the Year in August.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says the promotion of Cummins rewards his hard work in the background as a squad member through the season to date, noting that his extra size will be an asset in handling the Pumas’ physical approach across the field.
“Nick has waited patiently for his chance, but has earned the right to represent his country,” Deans says.
“We know that the Pumas will be coming straight at us, and will be looking to profit in the collision in the same way that the Springboks did last week. We’ve addressed that, both internally in our discussions, but also with our selection, where we have gone for the players we feel are best suited to that approach.”
Cummins moves into a reshaped backline for the clash against Los Pumas in the aftermath of last week’s 8-31 loss to South Africa at Loftus Versfeld which saw backline stalwarts Berrick Barnes and Adam Ashley-Cooper sidelined through injury.
Barnes was one of just three players, alongside current skipper and Emirates Western Force lock Nathan Sharpe and winger Digby Ioane, to have started in all nine Tests played by Australia to date in 2012.
The weekend will mark Sharpe’s 111th Test for the Wallabies, moving him into outright second for the most Test matches played by an Australian, while also edging ahead of the 110-matches played by flanker George Smith, to become the most capped Australian Test forward in history.
To put Sharpe’s previous service in perspective, the combined number of caps amassed by Saturday night’s starting backline numbers 88, while the other seven run on forwards boast 147 appearances between them.
Overall, the Australian run on team for the final Rugby Championship encounter features six changes from the side which came from behind on the Gold Coast to beat Argentina 23-19 just three weeks ago.
There are five changes to the XV from that which started the previous match: Mike Harris and Cummins replace Barnes and Dominic Shipperley respectively, while Ben Tapuai reclaims a place in the Test side standing in for Ashley-Cooper.
In the forwards, Sitaleki Timani makes a welcome return to a bulked up pack, taking over from Dave Dennis on the blindside flank. The big NSW Waratahs forward’s previous six Test appearances have all been earned in the second row.
A further change sees James Slipper promoted to start at loosehead prop, switching roles with Benn Robinson, who moves to the bench.
In anticipation of a physical forward onslaught from Argentina, the Wallabies selectors have again opted for a five-forward, two-back split among the substitutes.
Emirates Western Force scrumhalf Brett Sheehan, who made his fourth Test appearance and first in four years last weekend, from a career that exclusively features Test matches on South African soil, continues as halfback understudy.
Scott Higginbotham, who was ruled out shortly before kick off in South Africa due to a back complaint, has overcome the problem to take his place on the bench this week.
The Wallabies team to play Argentina
The Castrol Edge Rugby Championship Test
Saturday at Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, Rosario
Kick-off: 8.10pm (local time)/7.10am (Sunday 7 October AWST) is:
15. Mike Harris (Queensland Reds)
14. Nick Cummins (Emirates Western Force)
13. Ben Tapuai (Queensland Reds)
12. Pat McCabe (Brumbies)
11. Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)
10. Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels)
9. Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels)
8. Radike Samo (Queensland Reds)
7. Michael Hooper (Brumbies)
6. Sitaleki Timani (NSW Waratahs)
5. Nathan Sharpe (c)(Emirates Western Force)
4. Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
2. Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs)
1. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
16. Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
17. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
18. Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs)
19. Scott Higginbotham (Queensland Reds)
20. Liam Gill (Queensland Reds)
21. Brett Sheehan (Emirates Western Force)
22. Dominic Shipperley (Queensland Reds)