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Lolesio ready for second test start after horror Wallabies debut

By AAP
Noah Lolesio of the Wallabies looks to pass the ball during the 2020 Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on October 31, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Noah Lolesio’s selection as starting five-eighth for Australia’s opening test against France in Brisbane on Wednesday night was an “easy choice”, according to Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.

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The 21-year-old will partner Jake Gordon in a new-look halves combination at Suncorp Stadium, with incumbents James O’Connor and Nic White both injured.

Gordon himself arrived at camp with his knee in a brace but the NSW captain managed to recover in time to edge Tate McDermott for the No.9 jersey.

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Dave Rennie speaks to media ahead of opening French test

Another veteran, Matt Toomua, overcame a neck injury to add some much-needed experience at inside centre, while four possible test debutants were included on the bench in Brumbies trio, hooker Lachlan Lonergan, lock Darcy Swain and centre Len Ikitau, and utility Rebels back Andrew Kellaway.

Kellaway, 25, is the biggest surprise after only returning to Melbourne from Japan at the start of the Trans-Tasman competition.

It’s Lolesio’s second test start after making his debut at five-eighth last year against the All Blacks when the Wallabies were pummelled 43-5 in Sydney.

Rennie felt the Brumbies young gun had grown his game his year.

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“He’s a confident kid, he’s prepared to boss the big boys around, and he’s got a full Super season behind him now,” Rennie said on Monday.

“He’s played a lot of footy and has played really well – his ability to play flat and on top of defences and his kicking game … it was a pretty easy choice.”

“It’s a great opportunity for Noah and the way he’s prepared, we would expect him to play well and be demanding of others around him.”

As well as 28-year-old Gordon’s maturity, Rennie thought his key skills were a notch above young Reds No.9 McDermott, who he expected to have an impact with his running game off the bench.

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“What Jake has over Tate is his core skills – the quality of his kicking game and distribution – and Jake’s a very good running halfback and was outstanding against the Kiwi sides,” Rennie said.

The front row sees Brumbies teammates James Slipper and Allan Alaalatoa as the starting props, with Brandon Paenga-Amosa named at hooker.

Lock Matt Philip returns to the gold jersey after his stint playing in France and will partner Lukhan Salakaia-Loto while Brumbies bruiser Rob Valetini gets his first test start at blindside flanker.

Skipper Michael Hooper and No.8 Harry Wilson complete the back row.

Rennie said that after three weeks of solid training he expected to team to perform in game one against the French, with the second in Melbourne on July 13 and final test back in Brisbane just four days later.

“We’ve put a lot of detail into our game and the first two weeks were massive,” he said.

“This last seven days we’ve had less time on our feet; so a lot of repetition, a lot of clarity to give us every opportunity to fire from the first whistle so that’s the expectation.”

WALLABIES SQUAD: Tom Banks, Tom Wright, Hunter Paisami, Matt Toomua, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Jake Gordon, Harry Wilson, Michael Hooper (capt), Rob Valetini, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Matt Philip, Allan Alaalatoa, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper.

Reserves: Lachlan Lonergan, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Darcy Swain, Isi Naisarani, Tate McDermott, Len Ikitau, Andrew Kellaway.

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Lolesio ready for second test start after horror Wallabies debut

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