Barnes beats off Cooper challenge
Quade Cooper was left out of Australia's team for the opening Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand on Saturday, with Berrick Barnes retaining his place and Dave Dennis getting a start.
Cooper has missed Australia's past five Tests since surgery for a knee injury suffered in the bronze medal match at last year's Rugby World Cup, and was again overlooked, not even making the bench for the Bledisloe Cup match.
It allows Barnes, who was man of the match in consecutive Tests against Wales this year, to keep the No.10 jersey as flyhalf, working outside scrumhalf and newly appointed vice-captain Will Genia.
A second Test starting role for Dennis, a move from the side to the back of the scrum for Scott Higginbotham and a return to a starting midfield position for Anthony Faingaa represent the only changes to the starting line-up.
Higginbotham, who started at blindside flanker during Australia's last outing, when they shaded Wales 20-19 in June, takes over from the injured Wycliff Palu at No 8.
That opens the way for Dennis, who made his debut against Scotland in June and then came off the bench during all three Tests against Wales.
Coming off two three-day training camps, coach Robbie Deans opted to run the same backline as in the final Test against Wales, aside from Faingaa slotting in for the injured Pat McCabe.
As well as Barnes and Genia, Kurtley Beale retains his position at fullback and will be supported by the versatile Adam Ashley-Cooper and Digby Ioane in the back three.
Up front, the New Zealand-schooled Sitaleki Timani gets a chance to test himself against the All Blacks pack, alongside Sekope Kepu.
David Pocock skippers the side as the Wallabies look to win a Bledisloe Cup series outright for the first time since 2001.
The Rugby Championship, which introduces Argentina for the first time to the annual southern hemisphere competition that also includes South Africa, runs over six weekends from August 18 to October 6.
Saturday's match not only marks the commencement of the new four-way competition, which has replaced the Tri-Nations, it is also the next chapter of a Bledisloe Cup story now entering its 82nd year.
First presented in 1931, the trophy has been played for on an annual basis since 1982, but has not been in Australian possession since 2002 when, as the holders, the Wallabies retained the trophy following a 1-1 series result, with Australia's win being achieved at ANZ Stadium.
Current Wallaby coach Robbie Deans was the coaching coordinator of the 2003 All Blacks side, which finally returned the trophy to New Zealand possession after it had resided in Australia for five consecutive seasons between 1998 and 2002.
The Wallabies last won a Bledisloe Cup series outright in 2001.
This year sees the first three-match series for the trophy since 1998, having been played over two or four match ties in the time since with – as occurred last year – the holder retaining the trophy if the series ended up all square.
Australia hosts the first and third matches of this year's series, with the two teams locking horns on Saturday week in Auckland before the final game is played in Brisbane following the conclusion of the Rugby Championship.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 David Pocock (captain), 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Michael Hooper, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Drew Mitchell.
Date: Saturday, August 18
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 20.00 (10.00 GMT)
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)