Changes were expected and Wallabies coach Dave Rennie hasn’t held back, making eight to his starting line-up for Saturday‘s series-deciding Test against France as he attempts to balance player workload and a winning culture ahead of the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.
Saturday‘s clash at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium is the third game in 11 days between the two sides and changes were inevitable, although Rennie has named all six players who have turned out in every minute of the series so far.
Forwards Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Michael Hooper, fly half Noah Lolesio, winger Marika Koroibete and fullback Tom Banks have all been named in the starting side after playing 160 minutes over the opening two games, while backrower Rob Valetini has been retained but will start on the bench.
But the coach has made some key changes ahead of game three.
Queensland Reds scrum half Tate McDermott has been rewarded for his match-turning plays in the opening two games of the series, winning a start ahead of Waratahs half Jake Gordon, who wore the No.9 in games one and two.
It will be McDermott‘s first start in the gold jersey, with Brumbies pair Darcy Swain and Len Ikitau also starting for the first time in their Test careers.
Rennie has also plumped for the aggression of Lachie Swinton in the back row, bringing the Waratahs enforcer straight into the run-on team for his first Test of the season.
Swinton’s injection at blindside flanker means Valetini will start on the bench, while Isi Naisarani has also been named to start at No.8 ahead of Harry Wilson, who has dropped out of the 23.
The Wallabies pinched an unlikely win by scoring after the final hooter in the series opener last week before the French snatched a tense victory in Melbourne on Tuesday night, breaking a 31-year Australian hoodoo to put the series on a knife-edge heading into Saturday‘s decider.
“We always knew with the scheduling of the series against a tough French side that it would require a full squad effort, and we’re going to see that on Saturday night,“ Rennie said.
“We were disappointed with the result in Melbourne and we’ll be out to rectify that with more accuracy and composure in key moments at Suncorp Stadium.
“As always, we’ve picked a team that has earned the right to wear the gold jersey, and we’re confident they’ll get the job done in Brisbane.”
The pack reshuffle also includes Allan Alaalatoa being recalled to start in the front row with James Slipper and Brandon Paenga-Amosa. Taniela Tupou will come off the bench as he did in game one where his impact was game changing.
Swain will partner Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in the second row.
Ikitau will start at outside centre, with Hunter Paisami moving to inside centre for Matt To’omua, who moves to the bench.
It leaves the Wallabies with little experience in the playmaking roles after James O‘Connor (groin) suffered a further injury setback at training this week.
Noah Lolesio (4) and Paisami (8) have just 12 Test caps between them and will take the reins in the series decider, although Reece Hodge (45) has also come into the reserves, adding versatility and another kicking option to Rennie’s bench.
In the backs, Filipo Daugunu has been named to start on the wing in his first Test of the year, adding another element of speed to the team.
Jordan Uelese has been named as the reserve hooker.
Wallabies team to play France at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane on Saturday, July 17, 8pm AEST: