Wallabies name four debutants to face France in Brisbane
Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie has named four debutants to come off the bench against France in Australia’s first test of the year in Brisbane on Wednesday.
Lachlan Lonergan, Darcy Swain, Len Ikitau and Andrew Kellaway are all set make their first appearances for the Australian national side at Suncorp Stadium in two days’ time after being named on the pine for the clash with Les Bleus.
While there are no debutants in the starting side, there is an inexperienced feel to the halves combo, as 21-year-old playmaker Noah Lolesio has been selected to partner halfback Jake Gordon at first-five.
It was reported earlier on Monday that Gordon had beaten fellow halfback Tate McDermott to the No. 9 jersey for the first test of the year, with Rennie reportedly preferring the Waratahs skipper’s core skills over the Queenslander’s running game.
The selection of Lolesio in the No. 10 jersey will also end debate over who should replace incumbent playmaker James O’Connor, who is sidelined due to injury, in that role.
Some had tipped utility back Reece Hodge to fill in for O’Connor for the opening test of the three-match series against the French, but Lolesio, with only two tests to his name, has prevailed as the least experienced member of Australia’s run-on XV.
The test will also mark the official return of Wallabies captain Michael Hooper from his sabbatical in Japan, where he had been playing in the Top League for Toyota Verblitz.
The 105-test veteran acts as the most experienced player in a match day squad that also features 100-test loosehead prop James Slipper in the No. 1 jersey.
Slipper will be joined in the starting front row by Montpellier-bound hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Allan Alaalatoa.
Matt Philip, who has recently returned to Australia from French club Pau, and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto will pair up in the second row, while Brumbies standout Rob Valetini and Reds youngster Harry Wilson will join Hooper in the loose forwards.
Outside of Gordon and Lolesio, veteran five-eighth Matt To’omua and blockbusting centre Hunter Paisami will line up in the midfield.
Kick-off for Wednesday’s clash between the Wallabies and France is scheduled for 8pm AEST.
Wallabies team to play France
1. James Slipper (100 tests)
2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa (8 tests)
3. Allan Alaalatoa (43 tests)
4. Matt Philip (9 tests)
5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (25 tests)
6. Rob Valetini (4 tests)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (105 tests)
8. Harry Wilson (6 tests)
9. Jake Gordon (5 tests)
10. Noah Lolesio (2 tests)
11. Marika Koroibete (32 tests)
12. Matt To’omua (54 tests)
13. Hunter Paisami (6 tests)
14. Tom Wright (3 tests)
15. Tom Banks (11 tests)
* – denotes uncapped
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