Rennie makes big selection calls for Bledisloe One
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: New Wallaby coach Dave Rennie named three debutants Friday in a revamped team to play the All Blacks in the first Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington this weekend.
Rennie did not shy away from big selection calls for his first match in charge, benching veteran lock Rob Simmons and including the Reds trio of Filipo Daugunu, Hunter Paisami, Harry Wilson.
The starting XV features 13 changes from the Wallabies’ last outing, a 16-40 loss to England in the World Cup quarterfinals last October – which prompted Michael Cheika’s departure.
The only survivors from that mauling are captain Michael Hooper, playing his 100th Test, and wing Marika Koroibete.
Rennie’s team, who hope to win Australia’s first Bledisloe series since 2002, have a strong emphasis on youth while retaining experienced players in key positions.
“I’ve been impressed with how quickly the squad has come together – there’s a good group of men here and the last three weeks has given us a chance to work hard and learn more about each other,” Rennie said.
“We need to demonstrate that brotherhood and connection on Sunday.”
Veteran playmaker James O’Connor was named as flyhalf, edging promising youngster Noah Lolesio, who will have the chance to make his international debut off the bench.
O’Connor will partner Nic White in the halves, while Daugunu earns a maiden Test cap on the wing, with fellow Fijian Marika Koroibete running the opposite sideline.
Daugunu was the top try-scorer in the Super Rugby AU competition, crossing the line six times.
Fellow rookie Paisami lines up alongside Matt Toomua in the centres, with rising star Jordan Petaia lacking match fitness after returning from injury.
Tom Banks, who was snubbed by Cheika at last year’s World Cup, returns at fullback to complete the back line.
Number eight Wilson joins flanks Hooper and Pete Samu in the back row, while Rennie opted for a locking combination of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Matt Philip.
Philip has not played a Test since 2017 and his return from the international wilderness forces Test centurion Simmons onto the bench.
Props Taniela Tupou and James Slipper and hooker Folau Fainga’a make up a menacing-looking front row.
Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nic White, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Harry Wilson, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Rob Valetini, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Noah Lolesio, 23 Reece Hodge.
Date: Sunday, October 11
Venue: Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 16.00 (14.00 AEDT; 03,00 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keefe, Angus Gardner
TMO: Mike Fraser