New Zealand Australia Rugby Union
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has selected Richie Mo’unga at flyhalf and included three new caps on the bench in his squad for Sunday’s first Bledisloe Cup test against Australia.
Foster opted for the in-form Mo’unga at No. 10 ahead of the incumbent Beauden Barrett, a two-time World Rugby Player of the Year who will start at fullback in New Zealand’s first test in a year.
Mo’unga was one of the leading players of the season in New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, while Barrett was in patchy form for his new club, the Auckland-based Blues. After missing the start of the full Super Rugby season, Barrett joined the Blues from the Wellington-based Hurricanes and was forced to play at fullback with the flyhalf role taken.
Foster had been expected to include several uncapped players in his lineup for the match at Wellington’s Regional Stadium but took a cautious approach and named no new caps in his starting XV. Instead, he has given lock Tupou Vaa’i, backrower Hoskins Sotutu and winger Caleb Clarke the chance to make test debuts from the bench.
Vaa’i, 20, was working as a construction laborer at the start of the season but has made a big impression with his form for Taranaki province and the Hamilton-based Chiefs. Sotutu and Clarke are both from the Blues and are big and powerful ball-carriers.
Jordie Barrett will start on the right wing in a back three that includes his brother, Beauden, and George Bridge. Rieko Ioane, who has played most of his 29 tests as a winger, will start at center after rediscovering his form in that position. He will combine in midfield with Jack Goodhue.
“We really wanted to see how players adapted and fitted in and how comfortable they were coming back into the environment and so there were a number of positions that we wanted to keep an open mind about,” Foster said. “We’re excited by the group.
“There’s a lot of talent in there and we’ve got players jumping out of their skin and wanting an opportunity. It’s been fantastic to come together and know at the end of the week there’s a test match.”
Dave Rennie, for his first test as Wallabies coach, has included three new caps in the starting lineup and another on the bench.
Rennie, who took over from Michael Cheika after last year’s World Cup, faced an inescapable need to rejuvenate the Wallabies lineup because of injuries and retirements. In doing so, he has placed faith in a trio of young and largely untested new caps; his three uncapped starters are all in their 20s and from the Queensland Reds.
Harry Wilson, 20, will start in the backrow after being one of the most-effective ball carriers in Australia’s domestic Super Rugby this season. Wilson also brings off-loading skills to the blindside role.
Filipo Daugunu, 22, will start on the left wing. A thrilling attacking player for the Reds, he brings pace, a high skill level and an element of unpredictability to the Wallaby game.
Center Hunter Paisami, 22, was largely an unknown at the start of the Australian domestic season. The Sydney Morning Herald reported Paisami had been sleeping on the floor of his agent’s office 18 months ago after being dropped by the Melbourne Rebels.
He was picked up by the Reds and became a key member of their backline for his strong carrying ability and his rugged defense. He takes over the No. 13 jersey from Jordan Petaia, who ran out of time in his recovery from a hip injury.
Rennie has selected uncapped flyhalf Noah Lolesio on the bench. Lolesio was thought to have an outside chance of starting at No. 10 ahead of James O’Connor but Rennie has been more cautious and so Lolesio will likely make his test debut as a replacement.
Tom Banks will start at fullback, joining Daugunu and Marika Koroibete in the back three. Matt To’omua will pair with Paisami in midfield.
Pete Samu joins Wilson and captain Michael Hooper in the backrow while James Slipper will start at loosehead prop in his 97th test. Hooper will play his 100th test, becoming the 12th Wallaby to do so. Lock Matt Philip has been recalled after a two-year absence and will make his fourth test appearance.
The test is the first to be played in the world since the Six Nations in March, when sports went into lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Jack Goodhue, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (captain), Shannon Frizell, Sam Whitelock, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tuungafasi, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Dane Coles, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Nepo Laulala, Tupou Vaa’i, Hoskins Sotutu, T.J. Perenara, Anton Lienert-Brown, Caleb Clarke.
Australia: Tom Banks, Filipo Daugunu, Hunter Paisami, Matt To’omua, Marika Koroibete, James O’Connor, Nic White; Pete Samu, Michael Hooper (captain), Harry Wilson, Matt Philip, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Taniela Tupou, Folau Fainga’a, James Slipper. Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Rob Valetini, Jake Gordon, Noah Lolesio, Reece Hodge.
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