Wallabies' 'Tongan Thor' to start against France
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Australia elevated strapping prop Taniela Tupou to the starting line-up Sunday for the second Test against France as they look to cut out errors and be more clinical in their drive to seal the series.
The Wallabies conjured a miraculous 23-21 win in the opening Test of three at Brisbane last week, with Noah Lolesio capitalising on sloppy handling from France in the dying stages to drill a penalty after the final hooter.
While a welcome victory for coach Dave Rennie – only his second in seven games since taking over – their performance was riddled with missed tackles, forward passes and too many turnovers early on.
It allowed France to race into a 15-0 lead, something he wants to see fixed on Tuesday at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.
“We’ve worked hard and we’re well conditioned. A lack of accuracy in Brisbane denied us the opportunity to make the most of that, but we showed plenty of character to stay in the fight until the final whistle,” said Rennie.
“We need to start fast, be more clinical and turn pressure into points at AAMI Park on Tuesday.”
Tupou, dubbed the “Tongan Thor”, was a game-changer off the bench in Brisbane, as he attacked and earned penalties to help haul his team back into the game.
He comes in for Brumbies skipper Allan Alaalatoa as the only change to the side, with veteran playmaker James O’Connor again ruled out as he continues to struggle with a groin injury.
“Taniela made a real impact on both sides of the ball when he came on in at Suncorp Stadium and we’ll be looking for him to do the same from the get-go in Melbourne,” said Rennie.
Tupou will combine with Queensland Reds teammate Brandon Paenga-Amosa and 101-Test stalwart James Slipper in the front row as Australia look retain the Trophee des Bicentenaires.
Lock Matt Philip will again partner Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in the second row, with Rob Valetini, skipper Michael Hooper and Harry Wilson completing the forward pack.
Scrumhalf Jake Gordon was again preferred to Tate McDermott, continuing his halves partnership with Lolesio, while Melbourne-born Matt To’omua and the Melbourne-raised Hunter Paisami link up in the midfield.
Marika Koroibete, Tom Wright and Tom Banks round out the starting side with Len Ikitau on the bench Australia’s only potential debutant.
France, who have a depleted squad missing a host of regulars, are expected to announce their team on Sunday as they search for their first win in Australia since 1990.
Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Matt To’omua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Isi Naisarani, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Len Ikitau, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
Date: Tuesday, July 13
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 20.00 (12.00 French time; 10.00 GMT)
Referee: James Doleman (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)