Australia's 'Tongan Thor' to start against Los Pumas brutes
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Taniela Tupou has been torpedoed straight back into the Wallabies starting side in anticipation of a torrid scrum battle with Argentina on Saturday.
The destructive prop, dubbed the Tongan Thor, replaces Allan Alaalatoa as tighthead prop in one of three Australian run-on changes for the Tri-Nations clash in Newcastle.
Veteran prop Scott Sio is in for the injured James Slipper at loosehead prop, alongside hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa and the damaging Tupou, while Ned Hanigan is back at blindside flank at the expense of his suspended Waratahs teammate Lachie Swinton.
In addition to the aggressive edge Tupou will bring to the Wallabies pack in the absence of Swinton, coach Dave Rennie is particularly keen to have set-piece power at his disposal.
The Pumas dominated the All Blacks at scrum time during last Saturday’s shock 25-15 win over New Zealand in Sydney.
“I thought Taniela was massive off the bench. Gave us real ascendancy at scrum time, carried really well and deserves a crack to start,” Rennie said on Thursday.
“We think we can get an edge with Taniela at scrum time. They were very good last week against the All Blacks, so Taniela’s inclusion was important.
“We definitely know it’s an important area of the game and we need to be really strong.”
Rennie said Sio had responded professionally from being dropped after the Wallabies’ record 5-43 loss to the All Blacks in Bledisloe III in Sydney last month.
“We got the reaction we expected from Scott,” Rennie said.
“His preparation this week has been excellent and his experience will be invaluable against Argentina.”
In the other change to the team that upset the All Blacks 24-22 in Brisbane two weeks ago, Jake Gordon returns to the matchday 23 as replacement scrumhalf for Nic White.
Scone-born White will get his first chance to play for his country in the Hunter Valley, partnering with Reece Hodge, who retains the No.10 jersey after steering the Wallabies to victory in Brisbane.
Reds pair Hunter Paisami and Jordan Petaia get another chance to combine in the midfield, at inside and outside centre respectively.
After scoring with his first touch in international rugby, Tom Wright will again start on the wing with Marika Koroibete and Tom Banks rounding out an unchanged backline in Newcastle.
Folau Fainga’a and last-Test debutant Angus Bell will again be called upon as front-row cover along with Alaalatoa.
The versatile Rob Valetini will cover both the second row and back row with Queensland captain Liam Wright the other forward reserve.
Saturday’s winner will leapfrog New Zealand to take top spot on the Tri-Nations ladder.
“The tournament is evenly poised and our fate is in our own hands,” Rennie said.
Wallabies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Reece Hodge, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Valetini, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Noah Lolesio, 23 Filipo Daugunu.
Date: Saturday, November 21
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Kick-off: 19.45 (05.45 ART; 08.45 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Angus Gardner
TMO: Nic Berry