Flyhalf Noah Lolesio and center Irae Simone will make surprise test debuts for an injury-hit Australia team in Saturday’s third Bledisloe Cup rugby test against New Zealand.
Lolesio, 20, has been handed an unexpected start in a must-win test for the Wallabies because James O’Connor has been ruled out with a knee injury. Lolesio's Brumbies teammate Simone also comes in as an injury replacement, taking over from the injured veteran midfielder Matt To’omua.
Head coach Dave Rennie named four uncapped players in his 23 for the match which Australia needs to win to keep the four-match series alive. Queensland Reds backrower Fraser McReight and scrumhalf Tate McDermott have been included to make likely debuts from the bench.
“It’s really exciting to be able to name four more debutants in the squad this week,” Rennie said. “Noah and Irae have played a lot of footy together and we have no doubt they’re ready to take the step up to test rugby.
“Tate and Fraser have had big Super Rugby seasons and have impressed in training over the past month.”
In other changes, Allan Alaalatoa will start at tighthead prop ahead of Taniela Tupou, and Dane Haylett-Perry takes over from Tom Banks at fullback.
Lolesio helped lead the Brumbies to Australia’s domestic Super Rugby title his season, showing composure under pressure in the final. He is regarded as a player of test class but his debut has been accelerated by O’Connor’s injury.
Meanwhile backrower Hoskins Sotutu will start a test for the first time after being named in New Zealand’s XV.
Sotutu came off the bench in the first two tests of the series, making his debut in the drawn first test at Wellington.
He will start at the back of the scrum in place of Ardie Savea, who is absent on paternity leave. Sotutu is the son of former Fiji international Waisake Sotutu and one of four All Blacks to have made their test debuts during the current series.
Veteran lock Sam Whitelock returns from a head injury and Karl Tu’inukuafe takes over at loosehead prop from Joe Moody in other changes to the team which won the second test 27-7 in Auckland. Moody had a concussion in the second test and is still subject to head injury protocols.
The backline is unchanged with powerful youngster Caleb Clarke again starting on the left wing. Three-test backrower Dalton Papalii joins the bench along with center Ngani Laumape.
New Zealand will retain the Bledisloe Cup, which it has held since 2002, if it wins on Saturday. Australia must win to keep the series alive heading into the final test at Brisbane on Nov. 7.
“It’s the third test of a four-test series and the Bledisloe Cup is on the line,” head coach Ian Foster said. “It’s a real chance for us to come into their home patch, a place which they take a lot of pride in playing and for a trophy which means a lot to them, and we need to show them how much it means to us. The chance to go and win a trophy that’s precious to us is exciting.
“None of our players, even our experienced ones, have had to win the trophy in Australia. In the past the deciding game has always been in New Zealand, so I think it’s a great challenge for us.”
Australia: Dane Haylett-Petty, Filipo Daugunu, Jordan Petaia, Irae Simone, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Nic White, Harry Wilson, Michael Hooper (captain), Ned Hanigan, Matt Philip, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Allan Alaalatoa, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper. Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Scott Sio, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Fraser McReight , Tate McDermott , Reece Hodge, Hunter Paisami .
New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jack Goodhue, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Hoskins Sotutu, Sam Cane (captain), Shannon Frizell, Sam Whitelock, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Dane Coles, Karl Tu’inukuafe. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Alex Hodgman, Tyrel Lomax, Scott Barrett, Dalton Papalii, T.J. Perenara, Ngani Laumape, Rieko Ioane.
AP Sports Writer Dennis Passa contributed from Brisbane, Australia.
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