FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Brett Sheehan will start for the first time for Australia after coach Robbie Deans made four changes for the test against Italy on Saturday.
Sheehan replaces Nick Phipps while winger Drew Mitchell comes in for Digby Ioane from the 20-14 win over England last weekend. Backrower Scott Higginbotham returns from a two-game suspension to come in for Dave Dennis, who drops to the bench, and hooker Stephen Moore takes over from Tatafu Polota Nau.
Deans said has made the changes to inject fresh momentum into the side, not because he is underestimating Italy. "It's quite the reverse," Deans said. "If you look at the men who are coming in, they are all seasoned test players. Drew is one of the most experienced test wingers in Australian history, Stephen Moore is our most capped hooker, while Scott was the test incumbent in his position until the suspension.
"No one should doubt the impact that Brett Sheehan has made since he has joined the squad either. Nick did well last weekend against England and he is still in a position to contribute this weekend, but Brett has worked hard and has earned this opportunity."
Sheehan has six caps as a replacement after making his debut six years ago. Australia has won all 14 of its previous tests against Italy, including a 32-6 victory at last year's World Cup. Italy coach Jacques Brunel has made two changes to the team which lost 42-10 to New Zealand last week.
Openside flanker Robert Barbieri comes in for Simone Favoro. Lock Quintin Geldenhuys replaces Antonio Pavanello to form a second-row partnership with Francesco Minto, who made an impressive debut. Andrea Lo Cicero will win his 98th cap, bringing him closer to former No. 9 Alessandro Troncon's Italy record of 101 appearances.
"It will be really difficult to get something against Australia," scrumhalf Edoardo Gori said. "They're coming off the back of a great victory over England at Twickenham and they're one of the best teams in the world.
"We'll have to play with so much heart, do for 80 minutes that which we only managed to do for an hour against the All Blacks. This Italy team has shown it has a great spirit, and I am sure that it will show that again against Australia."
Italy: Andrea Masi, Giovambattista Venditti, Tommaso Benvenuti, Alberto Sgarbi, Mirco Bergamasco, Luciano Orquera, Edoardo Gori; Sergio Parisse (captain), Robert Barbieri, Alessandro Zanni, Francesco Minto, Quintin Geldenhuys, Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Andrea Lo Cicero.
Reserves: Davide Giazzon, Michele Rizzo, Lorenzo Cittadini, Antonio Pavanello, Simone Favaro, Manoa Voawai, Tobias Botes, Luke McLean.
Australia: Berrick Barnes, Nick Cummins, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Tapuai, Drew Mitchell, Kurtley Beale, Brett Sheehan; Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe (captain), Sitaleki Timani, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson.
Reserves: Tatafu Polota Nau, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Dave Dennis, Liam Gill, Nick Phipps, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane.