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Beale to start at flyhalf in reworked Australia backline for Bledisloe test vs New Zealand

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SYDNEY - Kurtley Beale has replaced Bernard Foley at flyhalf in a reworked backline selected for Australia's Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series opener against New Zealand.

Beale played outside Foley in the Super Rugby-winning New South Wales lineup but was preferred at No. 10 for Saturday's test in Sydney; his first game in the starting lineup this season.

Veteran utility Adam Ashley-Cooper's strong form for the Waratahs helped him regain his spot at outside centre for Australia after a long stretch of tests on the wing.

Experienced midfielders Rob Horne and Pat McCabe have been selected on the wings in a revamped back three anchored by incumbent fullback Israel Folau.

Australia coach Ewen McKenzie also made changes to the forward pack which sealed a three-test sweep against France in June, with Nathan Charles replacing injured hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and lock Sam Carter returning from injury.

He said the changes that weren't enforced through injury reflected the style he wanted the Wallabies to play against a World Cup champion All Blacks squad that is chasing its 18th consecutive test win.

"We've made what some people might consider bold selections," McKenzie said. "Against the All Blacks, you've got to go out there and have a crack ... we need to take a few risks."

McKenzie said the toughest selection revolved around flyhalf, with Foley performing strongly against France, and also steering the Waratahs to victory in the Super Rugby final against the Crusaders. But Beale's unconventional style won him the playmaker role.

"Bernard hasn't put a foot wrong ... but Kurtley has really stepped up his game," McKenzie said. "He'll bring some additional x-factor to our game."

Beale played primarily at fullback for Australia after making his debut in 2009 until starting seven tests at flyhalf in 2012, culminating with a match-winning performance against Wales at Cardiff. A combination of injuries and some off-field disciplinary issues have limited him to six tests — including four as a replacement — his test career since then.

"Not being a part of it, you feel a bit left out," Beale said, adding that he was rebuilding his working partnerships in the backline "so ... I'll be able to go out there without a worry."

McKenzie picked an expanded group of nine substitutes including six forwards, Waratahs halves Foley and Nick Phipps and ACT Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani, who made way for Ashley-Cooper in the centres. One player will be omitted closer to the test. Former skipper James Horwill was dropped from the squad.

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Australia squad: Israel Folau, Pat McCabe, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Toomua, Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale, Nic White; Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (captain), Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Sam Carter, Sekope Kepu, Nathan Charles, James Slipper. Reserves (one to be omitted): James Hanson, Pek Cowan, Ben Alexander, Will Skelton, Ben McCalman, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani.

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