Paisami steps in for injured Kerevi as Wallabies unveil strong line-up
Kerevi failed to overcome an ankle injury to face the Brave Blossoms in Oita, with Paisami to play his first Test since August as he returns at inside centre.
Paisami is one of four changes to the starting XV with lock Matt Philip returning, his Rebels teammate Rob Leota recalled at blindside flanker and Tom Wright named on the wing in place of Marika Koroibete, who opted not to tour.
Brumbies hooker Connal McInerney is in line for a potential Test debut after being a surprise inclusion on the bench with Rennie admitting the rake role is wide open.
But Rennie backed 23-year-old Reds centre Paisami to perform well.
“He will play his own game,” Rennie said.
“What we know with Hunter, he’s explosive and powerful, he’s got a really good skill set so not a lot changes really.
“He’s slotted in really nicely and he’s had a full training week over here so we think it will be seamless.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 21, 2021
While Petaia started the last Test on the wing, Rennie felt he wasn’t up to 80 minutes in the warm conditions under the roof in Oita, which was the scene of their World Cup quarter-final elimination by England in 2019.
“He does give us a fair bit of versatility but we’re not convinced that he’d go 80 if he started,” Rennie said.
“Japan have picked six loosies in their pack so we imagine it’s going to be a reasonably quick game from their mindset and so we’ve taken all that into account.”
Rennie said they still hadn’t worked out if Cooper and fellow Japan-based Sean McMahon will be available for the UK leg of the tour due to club commitments despite the game falling within the international window.
“Our intention is to take them to Europe,” Rennie said.
“We’re trying to come to a resolution that suits everyone.”
Wallabies: Reece Hodge, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Andrew Kellaway, Quade Cooper, Nic White, Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper (c), Rob Leota, Matt Philip, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Folau Fainga’a, James Slipper. Reserves: Connal McInerney, Angus Bell, Allan Alaalatoa, Darcy Swain, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor, Jordan Petaia.
– Melissa Woods
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