Kerevi dropped for Dunedin, Simmons in surprise start

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says he rushed Samu Kerevi back into the Wallabies fold too soon after injury, axing the centre for the second Bledisloe Test, while promoting lock Rob Simmons in a surprise selection.

Kerevi played his first game in a month when he started for the Wallabies in Sydney and Cheika said he may have thrown the 23-year-old in too soon after a pectoral injury.

The Wallabies mentor said the Reds centre was 'disappointed' but understood how to make his way back.

"His headspace is obviously disappointed but pretty positive around what he needs to do," he said.

"He’s got a clear guide on what he needs to do to get back in the team.

"You see how highly we rate Samu by putting him straight in after a bit of a layoff after Super Rugby with injuries and maybe we did him a bit of a disservice by picking him too soon.

"Maybe he needed another week or two of preparation to get exactly right to play his best rugby."

Simmons has been given the green light to start for the Wallabies in the second Bledisloe Test, despite being unwanted by the Reds in Super Rugby.

Simmons, played 13 matches for the Reds this year, one of those at blindside flanker after being released by Queensland as coach Nick Stiles looked to the future.

He and fellow World Cup lock Kane Douglas were both out of favour at the Reds, with Simmons left out of the 23 as early as March when the side played the Jaguares.

Simmons played in 11 of the Wallabies' 15 Tests last year, starting in three of the Spring Tour Tests after an injury to Adam Coleman.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika showed the 72-Test veteran faith, though, picking he and fellow out-of-favour lock Kane Douglas in his Rugby Championship squad.

Simmons is the only change in the Wallabies forward pack from the Sydney Test, with Rory Arnold shifted to the bench in a straight swap.

Cheika opted for Sydney debutant Curtis Rona on the bench over Kerevi, with the Force back providing some extra versatility.

"Just a little but more flexibility with position. Curtis can play on the wing, in the centre," he said.

"I know it was his first game and it was a pretty crazy game in the first one last weekend and I want to make sure that we think he’s got a big career in front of him.

"He understands a bit of what the pace is about at Test footy and he’ll get a chance to finish the game off for us."

Dane Haylett-Petty has been cleared of a biceps injury, replacing Rona in the 15, with Henry Speight shifting to the left wing, in what was an simple decision for the Wallabies.

"For a guy who is still quite young in his international career he’s certainly put a mark on the game and he would have been selected last week if he was fit," Cheika said.

"He’s got good back-field work and now that he’s back and fit I think it was an easy selection."

Rona has been kept in the matchday 23, though, named on the bench.

Jack Dempsey comes into the 23 calculations, with Cheika leaving a choice between he and Lopeti Timani open for one more day, with the pair both carrying niggles through the week.

The All Blacks named their team earlier on Thursday, with Sonny Bill Williams cleared to play.

The Wallabies take on the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.

TEAM

IN: Jack Dempsey, Dane Haylett-Petty

OUT: Samu Kerevi

Wallabies to take on the All Blacks 

1. Scott Sio (33 Tests)

2. Stephen Moore (121 Tests)

3. Allan Alaalatoa (13 Tests)

4. Rob Simmons (72 Tests)

5. Adam Coleman (13 Tests)

6. Ned Hanigan (4 Tests)

7. Michael Hooper (c) (69 Tests)

8. Sean McMahon (16 Tests)

9. Will Genia (79 Tests)

10. Bernard Foley (46 Tests)

11. Henry Speight (13 Tests)

12. Kurtley Beale (61 Tests)

13. Tevita Kuridrani (48 Tests)

14. Dane Haylett-Petty (17 Tests)

15. Israel Folau (56 Tests)

Reserves

16. Tatafu Polota-Nau (72 Tests)

17. Tom Robertson (10 Tests)

18. Sekope Kepu (81 Tests)

19. Rory Arnold (13 Tests)

20. Lopeti Timani (8 Tests)/Jack Dempsey (1 Test)

21. Nick Phipps (53 Tests)

22. Reece Hodge (14 Tests)

23. Curtis Rona (1 Test)