Surprise shift for Hodge in Japan

International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies' ultimate utility, Reece Hodge, will be thrown into the flyhalf cauldron against Japan, with Bernard Foley ruled out with illness.

Foley has been battling a virus all week and wasn’t able train fully on Tuesday, before travelling to Japan, leaving the Wallabies to look for other options.

Hodge, who has played in the playmaking spot in patches for the Rebels, has not started at 10 in Super Rugby since last year but has been discussed as a third-choice 10 for the Wallabies and has trained there at times this season.Reece Hodge will take the playmaking reins in Japan. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThe 23-year-old has played on the wing and in the centres for the Wallabies, but never taken the flyhalf reins in a Test.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said Hodge would be prepared for the switch, told before the Rugby Championship began that he was next in line to play flyhalf.

"When we came back in in August in the squad together and we came back in with the squad that we had, I’d spoken to Reece about preparing and that he would be the back-up 10," he said.

"I think he played U20s at five-eighth, there’s something about him that I think will handle that really well and he’s been training in that role, often even when he’s been training on the wing in the second team as a 10 to prepare.

"We’ve had him earmarked for this opportunity when it did arise and with Bernard in the situation he’s in, the situation has arisen and I’m very keen and excited to see him play in that position.

"He’s very confident in that role and it’s going to be a great experience for him to do it in the international arena."

Kurtley Beale was considered the second-choice for the Wallabies in that 10 spot, but he is being shifted to fullback, with Foley’s just the beginning of the injury concerns for the Wallabies.

Halfback Will Genia (calf) and Karmichael Hunt (neck) are also out of the match, with Genia still struggling to shake off a concern picked up in the third Bledisloe.

Hunt was caught up in an awkward tackle in Sydney at Tuesday’s training and hasn’t been able to overcome the issue in the days following.Nick Phipps will start in place of an injured Will Genia. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyNick Phipps will start at halfback, while Joe Powell will have the chance to add to his two June Tests in Japan.

The Reds back was expected to slot into Israel Folau’s fullback spot, but whether he is given a chance there will have to wait for the Wallabies’ second Test of Spring Tour.

Australia’s reshuffle has opened the door for Samu Kerevi to come into the starting side, combining with Tevita Kuridrani for the first time since last year’s England Series, while Henry Speight will replace Hodge on the wing.Matt Philip gets his chance in Japan. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Craig FitzsimmonsForce lock Matt Philip is in line to make his Test debut, named on the bench ahead of Blake Enever, a reward for the form he has shown in training and through a superb Super Rugby and NRC campaign.

His fellow Force forward Ben McCalman will play his first Test in 15 months, after battling shoulder and thumb injuries this season, set to rack up his 50th Test in the clash.

Australia last played Japan in the 2007 World Cup, and the two sides have never met on Japanese soil.

The Wallabies take on Japan in Yokohama on Saturday November 4, kicking off at 2:40pm local, 4:40pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.

TEAM

IN: Joe Powell, Matt Philip, Ben McCalman, Curtis Rona

OUT: Will Genia (calf), Lukhan Tui (hamstring), Jack Dempsey (hamstring), Israel Folau (sabbatical)

Wallabies to face Japan

1. Scott Sio (39 Tests)

2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (78 Tests)

3. Sekope Kepu (87 Tests)

4. Rob Simmons (78 Tests)

5. Adam Coleman (18 Tests)

6. Ned Hanigan (9 Tests)

7. Michael Hooper (c) (75 Tests)

8. Sean McMahon (22 Tests)

9. Nick Phipps (vc) (58 Tests)

10. Reece Hodge (20 Tests)

11. Marika Koroibete (4 Tests)

12. Samu Kerevi (14 Tests)

13. Tevita Kuridrani (54 Tests)

14. Henry Speight (17 Tests)

15. Kurtley Beale (vc) (67 Tests)

Reserves

16. Stephen Moore (125 Tests)

17. Tom Robertson (15 Tests)

18. Allan Alaalatoa (19 Tests)

19. Matt Philip*

20. Ben McCalman (49 Tests)

21. Lopeti Timani (9 Tests)

22. Joe Powell (2 Tests)

23. Curtis Rona (2 Tests)

*denotes uncapped

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