Saturday, August 17th, 2013
A new era for Australian rugby union begins on Saturday (August 17) with the Wallabies' clash with the All Blacks at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney beginning Ewen McKenzie's reign as coach.
The opening game of the Rugby Championship is the first under McKenzie, the former Queensland Reds coach, who has taken over from Robbie Deans, who was sacked from his position following Australia's series defeat to the touring British and Irish Lions.

McKenzie, a World Cup winner and a veteran of 51 tests, has made eight changes to the Australia side to face up to World Cup winners New Zealand for the opening Blesisloe Cup game - with five debutants named in his 23-man squad.

The biggest of those is the selection of Brumbies playmaker Matt Toomua at five-eighth. It was expected that McKenzie would hand the playmaker role to his Queensland Reds star Quade Cooper, who has returned to the Australia squad having been out of favour with Deans, but it will be Toomua who wears the number 10 jumper.

It will be a much changed Australia side from the one which lost the third and deciding test to the British and Irish Lions in Deans' last game in charge, with eight alterations made by McKenzie. He has moved James O'Conner onto the wing from five-eighth, Ben Mowen will play in the back row, while prop James Slipper, lock Rob Simmons, flankers Hugh McMeniman and Michael Hooper, fullback Jesse Mogg and Toomua are all in the starting line-up having either been on the bench or ruled out through injury.

“We’re certainly not going to deny the players the opportunity to have a go,” McKenzie said ahead of his first game in charge. “People are expected to use their skill and, if they can create an opportunity, then go for it. It’s not about limiting people by structure. And that’s the Australian thing. You’ve got to have a bit of a go.”

The All Blacks are favourites to win the opening game of the Rugby Championship, which doubles up as the first of three Bledisloe Cup games. has all the news, betting odds and special offers on the big game. Read our preview on the Wallabies-All Blacks game and our predictions for the 2013 Rugby Championship.

Australia start their 2013 Rugby Championship campaign against the defending champions New Zealand. After facing the All Blacks in the ANZ Stadium, the Wallabies side head to Wellington on Saturday 24 August to take on New Zealand in the return fixture.

South Africa are the opponents in Round 3 on Saturday 7 September with the Wallabies hosting the game at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, and a week later on Saturday 14 September the Patersons Stadium in Perth is the venue as Argentina visit Australia.

The Wallabies finish with two away trips, firstly to Cape Town to face South Africa on Saturday 28 September and then to Rosario to take on Argentina in the final game of the 2013 Rugby Championship on Saturday 5 October.

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Gary Emmerson

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