Wallabies change flyhalf ... again
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Australia have changed their flyhalf ahead of their final Test for the year – a Tri-Nations encounter with Argentina in Sydney on Saturday.
Fit-again James O’Connor was reinstated as the Wallabies’ chief playmaker Thursday, with Reece Hodge shifted to fullback as – Australia look to end the year on a high.
O’Connor was sidelined for more than a month by leg and foot injuries, missing three Tests, with coach Dave Rennie trying out Hodge and Noah Lolesio at flyhalf, with mixed results.
“It’s great to have James back in the team this weekend, he brings a lot of experience to a young group and has been working really hard to get his body right to be able to get back on the field,” said Rennie.
“Reece has done a great job for us at number 10 over the past two games and we’re confident he’ll put in another good performance for us on Saturday night from fullback.”
With O’Connor returning, the versatile Hodge replaces Tom Banks at fullback, which means he will have started for the Wallabies in every position across the backline except scrumhalf.
Australia face a daunting task in Sydney on Saturday, needing to win by an improbable 101 points to overtake New Zealand and claim the Tri Nations silverware.
Rennie kept faith with young centres Hunter Paisami and Jordan Petaia, while wings Tom Wright and Marika Koroibete fill out the backline with Nic White again at scrum-half.
Among the forwards, Allan Alaalatoa returns at tighthead prop ahead of Taniela Tupou with the pack otherwise unchanged from the team that drew 15-all with Argentina a fortnight ago.
“The side has worked really hard over the last 10 weeks or so and built a strong connection and I know as a full squad we are really keen to put together a performance that reflects that,” Rennie added.
Australia: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 20 Rob Valetini, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Irae Simone, 23 Tom Banks.
Date: Saturday, December 5
Venue: Western Sydney Stadium, Parramatta
Kick-off: 19.45 (05.45 Buenos Aires time; 08.45 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referee: Nic Berry, Jordan Way
TMO: Damon Murphy