Seven changes to Wallabies team, including a first Donaldson start
Wallabies boss Dave Rennie has unveiled a starting XV to play Wales this Saturday with seven alterations from the team that was beaten 10-13 by Ireland in Dublin. The Australians have endured an exhaustive tour so far, losing all three matches since a fortunate missed kick escape versus Scotland and shouldering a huge injury casualty rate.
Three changes are in the pack with hooker Folau Fainga’a, openside Fraser McReight and No8 Langi Gleeson named in place of injured trio David Porecki, Michael Hooper and Rob Valetini. There was an even greater number of changes behind the scrum, though, with four changes in personnel and two positional switches.
Waratahs playmaker Ben Donaldson has been named to start at fly-half for the first time. He debuted for the last few minutes off the bench in the recent defeat to Italy in Florence, dramatically missing the chance to win the contest with the last kick, but he now takes over at No10 in place of Bernard Foley, another absentee.
Donaldson will be joined at half-back in the Wallabies team by Jake Gordon, who is in for Nic White, the No9 who was at the heart of a concussion controversy last weekend in Dublin.
Elsewhere, Reece Hodge will showcase his backline versatility by occupying the No12 role in the absence of Hunter Paisami, while Jordan Petaia is included in place of Andrew Kellaway. Petaia will start on the right wing, a decision that sees Mark Nawaqanitawase move over to the left wing and Tom Wright switch from No11 to No15.
On the bench, the uncapped Sam Talakai is in line to become Wallaby number 963 if he is called into action as the replacement tighthead. Rennie said: “It’s a special occasion for Sam and his family. Over the past five weeks, he has impressed us with his diligence and work ethic and deserves the chance to debut on Saturday.”
On Donaldson, he added: “Ben has had a great year. He has been impressive at training around his skillset and detail and has earned his opportunity to start for his country this week.”
Wallabies (vs Wales, Saturday)
1. James Slipper (c) (126 Tests)
2. Folau Fainga’a (37 Tests)
3. Allan Alaalatoa (63 Tests)
4. Nick Frost (8 Tests)
5. Cadeyrn Neville (7 Tests)
6. Jed Holloway (9 Tests)
7. Fraser McReight (9 Tests)
8. Langi Gleeson (2 Tests)
9. Jake Gordon (19 Tests)
10. Ben Donaldson (1 Test)
11. Mark Nawaqanitawase (2 Tests)
12. Reece Hodge (61 Tests)
13. Len Ikitau (25 Tests)
14. Jordan Petaia (24 Tests)
15. Tom Wright (22 Tests)
16. Lachlan Lonergan (7 Tests)
17. Tom Robertson (30 Tests)
18. Sam Talakai*
19. Ned Hanigan (27 Tests)
20. Pete Samu (32 Tests)
21. Tate McDermott (20 Tests)
22. Noah Lolesio (16 Tests)
23. Jock Campbell (3 Tests)
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