The training wheels are off and the Wallabies’ big draft missions are about to begin, with Dave Rennie forced into another change in his back three for Saturday’s Test against England in Brisbane.
While Rennie was always going to be forced to change after a torrid and characterful victory in Perth, he was hoping to appoint Andrew Kellaway at full-back to replace Tom Banks after his broken arm.
Not anymore. Kellaway suffered a hamstring injury in training on Tuesday and was receiving scans on Wednesday, leaving two spots free in the back three to join Marika Koroibete on the left wing.
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Jordan Petaia, who had a superb 60-minute performance off the bench in Perth and scored the decisive try, will wear the No.15 shirt in Kellaway’s absence.
Wallabies officials have long wanted to see Petaia in the No.15 shirt for his bizarre athletic ability and powerful pace.
But his lack of time at No.15 for Queensland, where his development has been stunted over the past five years due to a series of injuries, has made Rennie’s coaching staff reluctant to bring him on. play in this position.
Banks and Kellaway’s injuries accelerated the process.
Who moves on the right wing remains less clear, but it looks like Suliasi Vunivalu has the inside going to make his home debut ahead of Tom Wright.
The two-time NRL premiership winner with the Melbourne Storm has had a stop-start entry into the game since switching codes after winning the title in 2020.
A series of hamstring injuries have slowed his progress, but after finishing the Super Rugby season on fire with the Queensland Reds, it’s time for the Wallabies to learn more about the marquee signing.
Nine years earlier, Israel Folau made his debut at Suncorp Stadium against the British and Irish Lions and the Wallabies are hoping Vunivalu will have the same impact.
Vunivalu, 26, is considered by some Wallabies officials to be the greatest athlete in Australian rugby history and his one-year contract extension last month reflected the decision to re-sign him for a third year despite minutes limited.
Another option is Wright, who was Australia’s best Super Rugby away player this season, but his versatility could actually see him called up via the bench, with Vunivalu a hardcore winger.
Izaia Perese would be an unlikely option given he sees himself as a centre, but he came off the bench last November on his Test debut and has played on the Queensland wing before.
Although Reece Hodge’s experience and reliability are highly valued, he only returned to the Wallabies squad on Tuesday from Fiji after being picked for Australia A.
It would be a slap in the face if Vunivalu or Wright were overlooked for Hodge, whose inconsistent form saw him miss selection for the three-Test series against England.
Playmaker Noah Lolesio is set to keep the No.10 shirt following his title-winning performance against England, where he was called up to replace Quade Cooper in the 11th hour.
Cooper’s calf injury should see him miss the rest of the series, with James O’Connor’s versatility once again proving a valuable option for Rennie.
Elsewhere, the Wallabies are to make two changes to their tight five, with Taniela Tupou set to be named for her return from injury.
His return will make up for the blow of losing Allan Alaalatoa to a concussion.
Darcy Swain’s two-match ban, which was reduced by six weeks by World Rugby, will also see a change in the second line with Matt Philip firming up for a return to the starting squad.
Meanwhile, teenage sensation Henry Arundell could be called up to the starting line-up to breathe life and rhythm into the England side after his stunning debut.
The 19-year-old was a surprise call to Eddie Jones’ squad for the series after limited games on the bench for the London Irish, but after impressing the Australian coach in training he made his debut from the bench and scored with his first touch last. weekend.
It was one of two late tries, which left Wallabies defense coach Matt Taylor less than impressed.
“I don’t know if I was screaming. I was probably swearing more than I was screaming,” Taylor said.
“I was probably disappointed more than anything because defending with 14 men for as long as we did and doing a reasonable job of conceding those two tries late in the game, as a defense coach you don’t ‘re not too happy, but it’s just a timely reminder.
Taylor said Arundell’s cameo was also a reminder for the Wallabies not to sit back on defense, but added he was confident they could stop the speed machine if he received his first start.
“We do a lot of homework on all the plays and we’ve seen quite a bit of Henry in the Premiership and I know Petrus du Plessis has a lot of good friends at London Irish and they were talking about how many tries he was scoring during of their workouts,” he said.
“So we all knew what a good player he was. We knew he had really good pace.
“I think when you look at that trial we probably sat on him a little bit, sat on our heels and I think at the last moment when Andrew Kellaway and Noah fell, because they were kinda sat on the heels, he had some momentum in the tackle and he’s a powerful athlete and a fast man so he finished very well.
“It’s a good reminder for us that you have to be 100 per cent zoned until the end of the test match.”
World Cup number 7 Sam Underhill is set to replace Tom Curry, who will miss the rest of the series after a blow to the head last week.