Rugby union: Hodgson to lead Wallabies in tour opener against Barbarians

LONDON (AFP) - New Australia coach Michael Cheika named back-rower Matt Hodgson as his first captain on Thursday in the Wallabies' opening tour match against the Barbarians in London.

He also reunited the halves pairing of Quade Cooper and Will Genia and picked uncapped winger Henry Speight in his first match in charge after Ewen McKenzie's abrupt resignation.

Cheika said he recognised open-side flanker Hodgson for his season with the Western Force by selecting him as captain.

"Matt has demonstrated exceptional leadership attributes at the Western Force for a long time now, and he deserves this opportunity being given to him," he said.

"To captain your country is a huge honour and I've got no doubt he'll step up and provide the team with the right direction and leadership needed against the Barbarians on Saturday."

It will be the first match of a five-game tour in November, which also includes Tests against Wales, France, Ireland and England.

Cheika, installed after McKenzie quit following speculation over player discontent and his private life, said the team was looking forward to facing the Baa-Baas.

"We've worked really hard this week on ensuring our team has a clear understanding of how we want to play, next is to transfer this into the game on Saturday," he said in a statement.

"You sense they're all looking forward to the opportunity against the Barbarians, and so far I've been impressed with the level of consistency they've brought to their work.

"This team contains a mix of players from our last game and also experienced players eager to push their way into the Test team. We're all looking forward to playing our first game for Australia on this tour."

Hodgson will lead a back row which includes fellow Force team-mate Ben McCalman at No. 8 and Scott Higginbotham at blindside flanker.

The starting tight five consists of hooker Saia Fainga'a and props Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander, while Sam Carter and James Horwill will pack down as the two locks.

Genia and Cooper will be responsible for sparking a back-line which includes ACT Brumbies' pair Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani in the centres, Rob Horne and Speight on the wings and Israel Folau at fullback.

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