Australia call on Cross

Mortlock's absence opens door for cross-code convert

Last Updated: 23/07/08 11:20am

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Cross: first international start

Cross: first international start

Sky Bet

Rugby league convert Ryan Cross is the only change to Australia's starting XV for Saturday's Tri-Nations fixture against New Zealand in Sydney.

Cross replaces Stirling Mortlock, who will not be risked after being concussed by a bang to the head during last weekend's 16-9 win over South Africa, for his first start after three caps as a replacement.

Flanker George Smith takes over as captain in Mortlock's absence, while Timana Tahu - another former rugby league player - is named among the replacements.

In the only other change to the 22, Dan Vickerman returns after ankle surgery to replace Hugh McMeniman on the bench.

Before his injury, Vickerman was Australia's first choice lock, but coach Robbie Deans decided to retain Nathan Sharpe and James Horwill in the second-row after their strong performance against the Springboks in Perth.

"Sharpie and James Horwill last week were very good, so we've got combinations going there," Deans said.

"Dan will get his opportunity off the bench - he's done very well to be in this situation. He's ahead of the anticipated return time.

"It's great to have that depth. Hugh has certainly done nothing wrong."

There are eight members of the match-day squad - Cross, Tahu, Berrick Barnes, Peter Hynes, Luke Burgess, James Horwill, Benn Robinson and Tatafu Polota-Nau - who will be playing the All Blacks for the first time.

Australia: 15 A Ashley-Cooper, 14 P Hynes, 13 R Cross, 12-Berrick Barnes, 11 L Tuqiri, 10 M Giteau, 9 L Burgess; 8-W Palu, 7 G Smith, 6 R Elsom, 5 N Sharpe, 4 J Horwill, 3 A Baxter, 2 S Moore, 1 B Robinson
Replacements: 16 T Polota-Nau, 17 M Dunning, 18 D Vickerman, 19 P Waugh, 20 S Cordingley, 21 T Tahu, 22 D Mitchell

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