A look back at the Wallabies debutants

Matt Lewis Profile
by Matt Lewis

The Wallabies have blooded seven new players across their six Tests this season, and there could be more on the horizon.

Let’s look at who has had their first taste of Test Rugby in 2016.

Rory Arnold – Wallaby #891

The tallest man to wear a Wallabies jersey, Rory Arnold started in the first two Tests of the season against England and added some much needed grunt in the Wallabies forward pack. An elbow injury ended Arnold’s Super Rugby season prematurely, and also affected his chances earning selection for the opening two Bledisloe Tests. Arnold’s impressive form in the opening two rounds of the Buildcorp NRC saw Cheika recall the Brumbies big man and we could once again see Arnold in the gold jersey in the Rugby Championship.

Samu Kerevi – Wallaby #892

Kerevi had been earmarked as a potential Wallaby after impressing in the NRC and Super Rugby over the past two season and a shortage of centre options opened the door for Kerevi in the June series. Incumbent 12 Matt Giteau was in France, Christian Lealiifano remained at home for the birth of his first child and Kurtley Beale and Matt Toomua were both ruled out through injury. Cheika opted for two hard-running centres in Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani for the opening two Tests against England. Kerevi was solid but was ultimately the casualty when Matt Toomua returned in the final test and Michael Cheika reverted to a dual playmaking duo at 10 and 12. Kerevi did overtake outside centre Tevita Kuridrani, picked over his long-time friend for every Test so far.

Dane Haylett-Petty - Wallaby #893

Haylett-Petty is the only debutant to have started in every Test of 2016 for the Wallabies and looks to have cemented a spot in the Test squad. After a breakout season for the Force, Haylett-Petty enjoyed a stellar series against England on the wing where he was one of the Wallabies’ most consistent players in a disappointing series. Haylett-Petty’s Bledisloe journey wasn’t as smooth, with the 27-year-old struggling to show his attacking flair and shown up in defence, but he has continued to deliver at training and rediscovered some form against the Springboks last Saturday. Playing out of position on the wing, the Force fullback admits he still has some way to go but is happy to keep plying his trade on the edges for now.

Nick Frisby - Wallaby #894

Frisby found himself in Test calculations in June with Will Genia still recovering from a knee injury, and the Reds halfback made his debut off the bench. He had lmited game time throughout the England series and was pushed out of the official squad on Genia’s return for the Rugby Championship, but has still been training alongside the Wallabies for most of the tournament. Frisby has thrived in the Queensland number nine jersey since Genia’s departure at the end of 2015 is set to team up with returning Red Quade Cooper for the 2017 season. 

Adam Coleman - Wallaby #895

Coleman was first included in the Wallabies squad ahead of the June series but didn’t get his first taste of Test rugby until the 70th minute of the third Test. When Rob Simmons was dropped for the second Bledisloe, Cheika called on Coleman to start and shoulder the lineout calling responsibilities, something he has taken in his stride. His aggression has not gone unnoticed, either, and while Coleman was off the mark when he was yellow carded for a shoulder charge on Ben Smith just shy of halftime in Wellington, his impact around the ground was noted. Coleman played a starring role in the Wallabies’ first win of 2016 against the Springboks last Saturday, scoring his maiden Test try.

Allan Alaalatoa – Wallaby #896

One of the standouts for the Brumbies in 2016, Alaalatoa earned a Test call up for the opening Bledisloe last month off the bench. A former Australian Schooboys and U20s representative, Alaalatoa is well-known for his strong scrummaging, and enjoyed a breakout game against the Springboks on Saturday. Alaalatoa will however have to wait for his next Test cap after suffering a knee injury against South Africa. The 22-year-old would surely have been in contention for a starting spot sometime this season, showing form as a tighthead, away from his natural loose position.

Reece Hodge - #Wallaby #897

Rewind 12 months and Reece Hodge had only just signed his first Super Rugby contract with the Melbourne Rebels. A stellar Super Rugby season saw Hodge play every position in the Rebels backline, bar one, and finish as the top try-scorer for the Melbourne-based club. It took an injury to utility Mike Harris for Hodge to be flown into the Wallabies squad, on the eve of the June Series and he has never looked back. Hodge was thrown into the Test cauldron when Adam Ashley-Cooper suffered a concussion in the second Bledisloe Test. Hodge did more than hold his own in Wellington, highlighted by his 55m penalty goal in the first half. He replaced the veteran in the Springboks Test, with Ashley-Cooper heading back to France, and looked comfortable in attack and defence in an influential match.