Kerevi in, but still no Cooper for Wallabies
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Samu Kerevi will start for the Wallabies on Sunday, two years after his last appearance and a move to Japan he feared would end his Test career.
The explosive tackle-buster has been named at inside centre against New Zealand in Perth, replacing veteran Matt Toomua, and will partner Len Ikitau with Hunter Paisami returning home for the birth of his child.
World Cup lock Izack Rodda’s return from French rugby has earned him a spot on the bench for his first Test since 2019.
Former Queensland Reds captain Kerevi also left Australian rugby after the World Cup for a lucrative three-year deal with Japan’s Suntory Sungoliath.
He’s back in the Wallabies fold now thanks to a relaxation of the Giteau Law, the veteran of 33 Tests one of two overseas-based players allowed despite not meeting the 60-cap qualification.
It continues a busy off-season for the 27-year-old, who was a last-minute addition to Australia’s Olympic rugby sevens outfit.
Coach Dave Rennie has made minimal changes despite the Wallabies coming off heavy back-to-back losses to the All Blacks in Auckland last month.
Rodda comes into the 23 for Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who also left camp to welcome a child, while veteran playmaker Quade Cooper didn’t make the match squad despite being made available to media midweek.
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“Both Samu and Izack have worked really hard since joining the group, been positive additions and have earned their opportunity to pull on the gold jersey,” Rennie said.
“We are excited about the chance to be back on home soil and put in a performance that all of our supporters can be proud of.”
Young halves Noah Lolesio and Tate McDermott have held on their starting jerseys as have the starting back three of Tom Banks and wings Marika Koroibete and Andrew Kellaway.
Folau Fainga’a is the new hooker with Brandon Paenga-Amosa out injured, making it an all-Brumbies front row.
Outside back Jordan Petaia and backrower Pete Samu are two new faces on the bench.
Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachie Swinton, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Nic White, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Jordan Petaia
Date: Sunday, September 5
Venue: Optus Stadium, Perth
Kick-Off: 14.00 (06.00 GMT; 18.00 NZT)
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Jordan Way (Australia) & Graham Cooper (Asutalia)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)