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Wallabies star in race against time to be fit for France test

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Mystery surrounds the make-up of the Wallabies side to face France in their Brisbane series opener on Wednesday as halfback Jake Gordon makes a late push to wear the No. 9 jersey.


The Waratahs captain is recovering well from a knee injury and has returned to full training this week as he vies with emerging Queensland talent Tate McDermott for the starting role.

Nic White (knee) won’t feature, while veteran playmakers Matt Toomua (neck) and James O’Connor (groin) are also under significant injury clouds, leaving Noah Lolesio and Reece Hodge in the mix to wear the No.10.

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Quinn Tupaea named to start for the All Blacks and partners Rieko Ioane in the midfield
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Quinn Tupaea named to start for the All Blacks and partners Rieko Ioane in the midfield

There is competition for a back row spot too, with Harry Wilson and Rob Valetini paired together at their locked-down Gold Coast training base after waging war for the Reds and Brumbies respectively this season.

The roommates could share the back row duties with No.7 and skipper Michael Hooper, although veteran Isi Naisarani finished the season strongly and Lachie Swinton is also knocking on the door for another chance after being red-carded in his test debut last year.

“I actually don’t know,” Wilson said of the likely team.

“We’ve been changing every single session, not like last year, it’s been changing very frequently.


“There’s not much of a rivalry in the (back row) because we’re all really good mates, but it does push you so much.

“It’s hard because there’s five, six quality back rowers there and we’re fighting for four spots.”

Wilson’s status looked shaky when he began the Super Rugby AU season slowly, before exploding back to his game-breaking best against the New Zealand outfits.

That form surge coincided with a mid-season Wallabies camp where he said coach Dave Rennie’s advice resonated.


“I do reckon I definitely over-thought my footy, coming off the (2020) test season (where he played every game and shone under Rennie) I wanted to play some good footy without doing the little things you need to do well.

“The big shift was making it simpler; if there’s a hole there, back yourself to get through it.

“From Dave it was ‘go back and play a simple game’ and for me that’s run hard and use a bit of footwork at the line and get my hands on the ball as much as I could.

“That was my main focus in attack and dumb things down in attack, some line speed and energy there and that’s what I focused on and I felt there was a fair bit of improvement from there.”


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