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Young Wallabies to tackle France in final warm-up

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Will Skelton will become the 87th Wallabies captain when he leads the side onto Stade de France on Sunday for the side’s final Test before the 2023 World Cup.

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Skelton will lead a young side against Les Bleus, with just 258 Test caps of experience in the starting XV and 12 of the matchday 23 with less than 10 Tests to their name to date.

NSW South Coast junior Blake Schoupp and Port Douglas product Issak Fines-Leleiwasa are both in line to make their Test debuts as replacements against one of the World Cup favourites in France.

Lalakai Foketi will play his first international since he scored a World Rugby Try of the Year contender at the same venue last year. He’ll partner the dynamic Jordan Petaia in the midfield.

Rapid wing Suliasi Vunivalu will start on left edge for the first time in his Wallabies career, linking up with Mark Nawaqanitawase and Andrew Kellaway in the back three in Paris.

The halves pairing of Tate McDermott and Carter Gordon will combine for the third straight Test, looking to build on their promising partnership ahead of the World Cup.

22-year-old Angus Bell will be looking to continue his strong form since returning from a serious foot injury, joining the consistent David Porecki and Taniela Tupou in the starting front row. Tupou earning his first Wallabies start since the corresponding Test in November last year.

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Skelton will partner fellow France-based lock Richie Arnold in the second row, while Jones has named an unchanged back row from Dunedin, with Tom Hooper and Fraser McReight the flanks and Rob Valetini at No.8.

In what shapes as a number of players first professional matches in the northern hemisphere, Schoupp will be joined by Zane Nonggorr and Matt Faessler as the finishing front row.

In a 6/2 split, Jones has named Matt Philip, Rob Leota and Langi Gleeson as the finishing forwards. The latter playing his first Test of 2023.

The versatile Ben Donaldson is the finishing backs cover alongside Fines-Leleiwasa.

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Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones said: “We’ve had an impressive preparation for the World Cup this week. Improving our physical capacity has been a priority and our Rugby fitness is rapidly improving and we will look to use it against France.”

“To play against the tournament hosts in front of a massive crowd at the venue for the Final is perfect preparation for us.

“We are a young side, who is ambitious and in the process of developing our game.”

Australia: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Suliasi Vunivalu, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Tom Hooper, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Richie Arnold, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Matt Faessler 17 Blake Schoupp, 18 Zane Nonggorr, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Langi Gleeson, 22 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 23 Ben Donaldson

Date: Sunday, August 27
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 17.45 (15.45 GMT; 1.45 Australia time, Monday August 28)
Referee: Luke Pearce (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Christophe Ridley (Ireland) & Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Tom Foley (Ireland)

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