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Wallabies wing added to new-look Australia A starting team for Fiji clash

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

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Australia A have chopped and changed their team to face Fiji this weekend after opening their Pacific Nations Cup campaign with defeat last week.

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Falling short in a last-gasp 31-26 defeat at the hands of Samoa at ANZ National Stadium in Suva last Saturday, Australia A head coach Jason Gilmore has shuffled his team, bringing in a total of eight new faces into the starting lineup.

Arguably the most notable of the new additions is seven-test Wallabies wing Filipo Daugunu, slotting onto the left wing in place of Reds teammate Jock Campbell, who shifts to fullback at the expense of experienced utility back Reece Hodge.

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Together, Daugunu and Campbell form a fresh back three that also features breakout Waratahs star Dylan Pietsch, who comes onto the right wing ahead of his Super Rugby Pacific teammate Mark Nawaqanitawase.

Those three are accompanied by one-test Wallabies midfielder Lalakai Foketi, who moves from centre to second-five and will partner Hudson Creighton in the midfield as Hamish Stewart drops out of the match day side.

That backline will be directed by a new playmaker in the form of standout Waratahs first-five Ben Donaldson, while there are changes aplenty in the forward pack.

Impressive two-test Wallabies flanker Fraser McReight is the only survivor from last week’s loose forward contingent, where Seru Uru and Langi Gleeson replace Tim Anstee and Will Harris at blindside flanker and No 8, respectively.

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Uru’s move to the side of the scrum has opened a vacancy in the second row, which has been filled by Hugh Sinclair, who will act as Ryan Smith’s locking partner.

Reds hooker Matt Faessler, meanwhile, replaces Brumbies counterpart Billy Pollard to join Matt Gibbon and Tom Robertson in the front row.

Of those omitted from the starting team, only Nawaqanitawase has been retained on the bench, where he is accompanied by a largely settled cohort.

Three-test Wallabies hooker Feleti Kaitu’u, props Harry Hoopert, Archer Holz and Rebels halfback James Tuttle are among those who featured from the pine last week.

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That leaves Nawaqanitawase as one of four newbies – alongside Force duo Jeremy Williams and Jackson Pugh, as well as Reds youngster Isaac Henry – in the reserves.

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“The squad is really excited about playing Fiji in Fiji,” Gilmore said of his team in a statement.

“It’s a special occasion and this opportunity does not come around too often. For Seru, Filipo, Mark and Langi to play this match in Fiji will be a memorable moment for the boys and their families.

“We were disappointed not to finish the game off against Samoa after fighting our way back into it in the second half.

“Our execution early in the match will be important against an experienced Fiji team. As we know with this team, they can attack from anywhere and we will need to be defensively sharp.”

Eyeing their first victory of the Pacific Nations Cup, Australia A will need to overcome a wondrous Fiji side that proved their class in their 36-0 demolition of Tonga last week.

Kick-off for Saturday’s clash between Australia A and Fiji at Churchill Park in Lautoka is scheduled for 3:30pm local time.

Australia A team to play Fiji

1. Matt Gibbon
2. Matt Faessler
3. Tom Robertson
4. Hugh Sinclair
5. Ryan Smith
6. Seru Uru
7. Fraser McReight (vc)
8. Langi Gleeson
9. Ryan Lonergan (c)
10. Ben Donaldson
11. Filipo Daugunu
12. Lalakai Foketi
13. Hudson Creighton
14. Dylan Pietsch
15. Jock Campbell

Reserves:

16. Feleti Kaitu’u
17. Harry Hoopert
18. Archer Holz
19. Jeremy Williams
20. Jackson Pugh
21. James Tuttle
22. Isaac Henry
23. Mark Nawaqanitawase

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