Kerevi in, Cooper out for Wallabies clash against All Blacks
Kerevi hasn’t played for the Wallabies since he departed for Japan to join Suntory Sungoliath after the 2019 World Cup, but the 27-year-old has been included in Dave Rennie’s current squad following a relaxation of the Giteau Law.
As a result, despite having played only 33 tests and spending just six years of professional rugby in Australia, Kerevi has returned to the starting lineup for the Wallabies, as he has been named at No 12 to take on the All Blacks at Optus Stadium.
By replacing Matt To’omua at second-five, Kerevi represents one of nine changes to the match day squad, but none of them involve the re-call of veteran playmaker Quade Cooper.
Plenty of speculation had centred on whether Cooper, who played the last of his 70 tests against Italy four years ago, would be called on by Rennie to face the All Blacks this week.
With injured pivot James O’Connor set to link back up with the squad in Queensland next week, Cooper’s time in the Australian camp may have now come to an end without the 33-year-old taking to the field.
The presence of Kerevi in the starting XV should help bring confidence to the Wallabies as they look to deny the All Blacks a Bledisloe Cup clean sweep and register their first victory of the Rugby Championship.
Kerevi isn’t the only new player in the run-on squad, as Rennie has opted for a change of hooker with Folau Fainga’a coming into the No 2 jersey in place of Brandon Paenga-Amosa, who has been dropped from the match day side entirely.
The alteration comes after the Wallabies looked faulty at the set piece in their last outing, a 57-22 thumping at the hands of the All Blacks at Eden Park in Auckland last month.
In the midfield, meanwhile, inexperienced centre Len Ikitau will partner with Kerevi for the first time in his four-test career.
On the bench, Hodge will be accompanied by five new faces, including lock Izack Rodda, who will play in his first test since the 2019 World Cup.
It means Rodda will have the chance to add to his 25 test caps in front of his future home crowd at Optus Stadium, which has sold-out with more than 60,000 fans expected at this weekend’s clash.
Wallabies team to play the All Blacks
1. James Slipper
2. Folau Fainga’a
3. Allan Alaalatoa
4. Darcy Swain
5. Matt Philip
6. Lachlan Swinton
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Rob Valentini
9. Tate McDermott
10. Noah Lolesio
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Samu Kerevi
13. Len Ikitau
14. Andrew Kellaway
15. Tom Banks
16. Lachlan Lonergan
17. Angus Bell
18. Taniela Tupou
19. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
20. Pete Samu
21. Nic White
22. Reece Hodge
23. Jordan Petaia
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