CONFIRMED: O'Connor gets No.13 jersey for Bledisloe Cup clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: James O’Connor completed his return from exile on Thursday as he was named to start in Saturday’s Test against the All Blacks in Perth.
It will be the utility back’s first start since 2013, when the Wallabies tore up his contact after he was prevented from boarding a flight from Perth to Bali for being drunk.
That was the latest in a series of indiscretions by O’Connor which also included his arrest in a drug bust in Paris.
He earned partial redemption two weeks ago when named in the replacements for the Rugby Championship Test against Argentina, and has now been included in coach Michael Cheika’s first XV at outside centre.
But there will be no return for top-rated flank David Pocock, despite his call-up to the Wallabies training squad after a torrid run of injuries.
O’Connor’s return is one of four changes to Cheika’s starting line up for the final-round Rugby Championship clash, which doubles as the opening match in the annual Bledisloe Cup series against New Zealand.
— Qantas Wallabies (@qantaswallabies) August 8, 2019
Prop Allan Alaalatoa returns to the Test arena for the first time this year to cap a memorable week for the 25-year old in which he was named the Brumbies Players’ Player of the Year.
Alaalatoa is joined in the front row by hooker Tolu Latu with Folau Fainga’a shifting to the reserves, while Nic White partners Christian Lealiifano in the halves.
It will be the first Test start for the White-Lealiifano pairing but the combination has a long history following several seasons as chief playmakers for the Brumbies.
For O’Connor, whose last cap was against Argentina in Perth six years ago, it will be his first start in the 13 jersey in his 46th Test, adding to a career that has covered nearly every position in the backline.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Reece Hodge, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nic White, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Luke Jones, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Tom Banks.
Date: Saturday, August 10
Venue: Optus Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 17.45 (21.45 NZ time; 09.45 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)