Wallabies lose two key players for upcoming All Blacks clash
Centre Hunter Paisami and lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto have both left Australia’s camp in Perth to return to Brisbane for the birth of their first children.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie on Friday said both “probably” would have faced the All Blacks if the match went ahead as planned on Saturday instead of Sunday week.
“Their partners are due on the first [of September] and beyond so they both came here originally and have since left,” Rennie said.
The All Blacks will also be without three influential players because of pending baby commitments – skipper Sam Whitelock and first-choice halves Richie Mo’unga and Aaron Smith.
Rennie stopped short of saying there’d be an extra edge when the two sides finally faced off again because of the All Blacks’ late arrival in Western Australia, but said he was still disappointed by their actions.
“We’re not necessarily using it as extra motivation,” Rennie said.
“The disappointment for us was we knew that the Rugby Championship was going to be played somewhere in the world on the 12th of September.
“The All Blacks committed to play us originally on the 21st [of August] and then the 28th and, had they come over here, what we knew was on the 29th we’re all jumping on a plane heading to somewhere in the world.
“Whether that was Brisbane, South Africa or that was the UK and, from that perspective, we felt they should have been on the plane and come over and fulfilled their commitments.
“But anyway … they’re here now.
“There’s plenty of motivating factors and the biggest one is the scoreline last time we played.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 27, 2021
That scoreline was 57-22 three weeks ago at Eden Park, with Rennie still smarting about his Wallabies conceding the most points ever in a match against New Zealand.
“We had a pretty brutal review, which you should do,” he said.
“We did a lot of really good things in that test but not for long enough and made too many errors and gave their key playmakers time and space.
“We knew heading in that would be fatal so we’ve got to be better. To leak that many points, that’s been all the focus, not on the good things we did.”
Paisami’s unavailability opens the door for Samu Kerevi to make his first Wallabies appearance since 2019.
But Rennie wasn’t giving any indication whether or not he’d go down that path, other than to admit Kerevi had transitioned well at training back into the 15-man code following a short stint with the Australian Olympic sevens team.
“He’s been excellent,” Rennie said.
“He’s an experienced man who’s contributing really well. There’s a fair bit to get your head around but he’s been excellent.
“He’s obviously played over in Suntory [in Japan].
“A good mate of mine, Jason O’Halloran, coaches over there and he gave some really positive feedback around Samu’s preparation and the detail around trying to be better each day and we’re seeing evidence of that in our squad.”
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