Wallabies without star centre for Japan clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Hunter Paisami was Thursday recalled to the Wallabies side in place of explosive centre Samu Kerevi for their first clash against Japan since 2017 in one of four changes to the starting team.
The 23-year-old Paisami began Australia’s opening five Tests of the year but was ousted by the Japan-based Kerevi, who cemented his place with some barnstorming performances.
But he picked up an ankle injury in their final clash of the Rugby Championship against Argentina and is yet to recover, opening the door to Paisami in Oita on Saturday.
“While it’s disappointing for Samu not to be able to play in Japan, Hunter started the first five Tests this year prior to the birth of his daughter and is chomping at the bit for another opportunity,” said coach Dave Rennie.
He is one of four changes to the side that beat Los Pumas 32-17 this month to stretch their win streak to four, which included two victories over world champions South Africa.
Matt Philip returns to the second row while his Melbourne Rebels teammate Rob Leota was recalled at blindside flank.
Tom Wright gets the nod ahead of Jordan Petaia to start in place of wing Marika Koroibete, who withdrew from the game, and Australia’s subsequent tour of Britain, for family reasons.
The front row remains unchanged for the fourth consecutive game with James Slipper – who will surpass Will Genia and Sekope Kepu by playing his 111th Test – joined by Brumbies teammate Folau Fainga’a and the hulking Taniela Tupou.
Philip will reignite his combination with Western Force recruit Izack Rodda in the second row, with Leota accompanied by skipper Michael Hooper and No.8 Rob Valetini in the loose forwards.
A resurgent Quade Cooper, who is also based in Japan, retained the No.10 jersey and will again act as playmaker alongside scrumhalf Nic White with Paisami and Len Ikitau making up the midfield.
Wright is joined in the back three by Andrew Kellaway, who scored a hat-trick in their last game against Argentina, and the big-kicking Reece Hodge, while debutant hooker Connal McInerney was named on the bench.
“We’ve got a huge amount of respect for the Brave Blossoms who are now competitive with the best sides in the world,” said Rennie. “We’ll need to be at our best.”
Australia: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Andrew Kellaway, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Rob Leota, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Alan Alaalatoa, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 James O’Connor, 23 Jordan Petaia.
Date: Saturday, October 23
Venue: Showa Denco Dome, Oita,
Kick-off: 13.45 (15.45 AEDT; 04.45 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Takehito Namekawa (Japan), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)