Rugby World Cup 2011
Big guns back for Wallabies
Digby Ioane (File)
Wellington - Australia coach Robbie Deans has named his strongest possible team to play reigning champions South Africa in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Sunday.
Fullback Kurtley Beale, wing Digby Ioane and inside centre Pat McCabe all return from injuries, three of seven changes to the side that beat Russia 68-22 in its final Pool C match last weeek.
Beale replaces injured wing Drew Mitchell, with James O'Connor relocating back to the right wing, McCabe steps in for Berrick Barnes, while Ioane resumes in the place of stand-in Radike Samo, who returns to his favoured No 8 berth.
Samo's return to the back of the scrum is one of five changes to the forwards, with flank Rocky Elsom, second row Dan Vickerman, tighthead prop Ben Alexander and loosehead prop Sekope Kepu all reinstated.
"We've gone with the players, and the combinations, which have served us best through the year to date," Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said after the team was announced on Friday.
"Obviously injury, and managing individual player workloads, has been a factor in selection through the tournament so far, but fortunately a lot of the injury problems that we've had are now behind us.
"The players that are coming back into the team after breaks are good to go."
While Australia have won four of their last five Tests against South Africa, Deans insisted those results were "irrelevant".
"All that matters is Sunday," the former All Black said. "The winner goes on, the loser goes home.
"Taking comfort from previous games is the quickest path way to the airport! The knock out phases of the World Cup are completely different to every other type of rugby we play: the stakes are higher, the intensity greater and the margins between success and failure smaller.
"We've seen that to some extent already in the tournament through the key pool matches and you can pretty much guarantee that it will all only intensify from here."
Deans added: "South Africa still has the core group from the last World Cup together. They know what it takes to be successful in knockout rugby and know how to close out the tight games.
"They've already shown that in this tournament when they came from behind to beat Wales by a point (17-16).
"They have a group which has the knowledge and belief that it can get things done. They will bring that mentality forward with them on Sunday. If we are going to earn the right to advance to the next round, we have to match it."
15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia; 8 Radike Samo, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Dan Vickerman, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu
Substitutes: 16 Tatafu Polota Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Nathan Sharpe, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Anthony Fainga'a
15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Willem Alberts, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Butch James, 22 Gio Aplon
* Click HERE for the latest RWC odds on BET.CO.ZA