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Will Skelton to lead ‘ambitious’ Wallabies side against France

By Finn Morton
Will Skelton of the Wallabies embraces Jordan Petaia of the Wallabies after losing the The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 29, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Towering lock Will Skelton will become the 87th captain of the Wallabies when he leads a youthful side into battle against Rugby World Cup hosts France on Sunday evening.

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The Wallabies have started their new dawn under coach Eddie Joens with four losses from as many starts this year, but the Aussies will be desperate to turn that around against Les Bleus.

Led by star halfback Antoine Dupont, Les Bleus have been one of the form teams in Test rugby over the last four years – and they’re among the favourites to hoist the Webb Ellis Cup, if not the favourite.

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On paper, it appears to be quite a daunting task for the Wallabies – but rugby isn’t played on paper. Coach Joens has picked a young matchday 23, and they’ll be full of belief going into the Test.

Captain Skelton will lead the new-look Wallabies side out onto the field at Stade de France, with 12 players in the matchday squad having played less than 10 Tests in their careers so far.

“We’ve had an impressive preparation for the Rugby World Cup this week,” coach Jones said in a statement.

“Improving our physical capacity has been a priority and our rugby fitness is rapidly improving and we will look to use it against France.

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“To play against the tournament hosts in front of a massive crowd at the venue for the final is perfect preparation for us.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
3
Draws
0
Wins
2
Average Points scored
30
26
First try wins
40%
Home team wins
80%

“We are a young side, who is ambitious and in the process of developing our game.”

Angus Bell will line up at loosehead prop alongside David Porecki and Taniela Tupou. That’s quite an all-star front-row, especially with Tupou – aka the Tongan Thor – returning from injury.

Toulouse lock Richie Arnold and La Rochelle enforcer Will Skelton will combine once again on Sunday. It’s potentially the biggest second-row pair in international rugby right now.

Coach Jones has named a familiar-looking backrow, with young guns Tom Hooper and Fraser McReight set to start on the flanks, and Rob Valetini at No. 8. This is the same loose forward trio that almost took down the All Blacks in Dunedin.

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Halfback Tate McDermott and rising star Carter Gordon will combine in the halves for the third time. The pair showed plenty of promise during the thrilling defeat to New Zealand.

Lalakai Foketi will run out in Wallaby gold for the first time since last year’s Test match at the same venue. In that clash with Les Bleus, Foketi scored a World Rugby Try of the Year contender.

Foketi will partner Jordan Petaia in the centres. Outside of the midfield is former NRL star Suliasi Vunivalu on the left, Mark Nawaqanitawase on the right, and Andrew Kellaway out the back.

Black Schoupp and Issak Fines-Leleiwasa are both in line to make their Test debuts off the bench.

This match is set to get underway at Stade de France in Paris at 5.45 pm on Sunday, or 1.45 am on Monday for those watching on Stan Sport back in Australia.

Wallabies team to take on France

  1. Angus Bell
  2. David Porecki
  3. Taniela Tupou
  4. Richie Arnold
  5. Will Skelton (c)
  6. Tom Hooper
  7. Fraser McReight
  8. Rob Valetini
  9. Tate McDermott
  10. Carter Gordon
  11. Suliasi Vunivalu
  12. Lalakai Foketi
  13. Jordan Petaia
  14. Mark Nawaqanitawase
  15. Andrew Kellaway

Finishers

  1. Matt Faessler
  2. Blake Schoupp*
  3. Zane Nonggorr
  4. Matt Philip
  5. Rob Leota
  6. Langi Gleeson
  7. Issak Fines-Leleiwasa*
  8. Ben Donaldson
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finn 5 hours ago
Why the world needs a reverse Lions tour

I think there’s a lot of reasons this wouldn’t work, but if we’re just proposing fun things how about a “World Series” held the june/july following a world cup. The teams competing each four years would be: the current world champions The Pacific Islands The British & Irish Lions The World XV Barbarians FC to ensure all teams are fairly evenly matched, the current world champions would name their squad first; then The Pacific Islands would name next, and would be able to select any pacific qualified players not selected by the world champions, including players already “captured” by non-pacific nations who would otherwise have been eligible for selection (eg. Bundee Aki); the Lions would select next; and then The World XV and Barbarians FC would be left to fight over anyone not selected. Some people will point out that 5 teams is too many for a mid-year round robin, particularly as it would be nice to have a final as well; and they would be right! But because we’re just having fun here we’re going to innovate an entirely new format for rugby, where the round robin is played in one stadium over the course of one day, with each game lasting just 40 minutes with no half time or change of ends. The round robin decides the seedings for the knockouts, which are contested by all 5 teams in one stadium over the course of one day, according to the following schedule: Knockout Round 1: seed 5 v seed 4 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Quarter Final: winner of Round 1 v seed 3 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Semi Final: winner of Quarter Final v seed 2 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Final: winner of Semi Final v seed 1 (played as a standard 80 minute rugby match) for the round robin, teams would name a 15 man starting lineup and a 16 man bench. Substitutions during games can only be made for injuries, but any number of substitutions can be made between games. The same rules apply for the finals, except that we return to having a regular 8 man bench, and would allow substitutions as normal during the 80 minute final.

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