Forward pack tweaked, Petaia returns: Wallabies make four changes for Bledisloe II at Eden Park

The Rugby Championship
by Christy Doran

Ned Hanigan will play his first Test in almost two years after being called into the Wallabies' starting XV as one of four changes made by Dave Rennie for Sunday's second Test against the All Blacks at Eden Park, Auckland.

The 25-year-old, who played the last of his 20 Tests against England at Twickenham in November 2018, comes into the back-row for Pete Samu, who has been dropped from the squad. The decision to axe Samu is a tough one, but it reveals the cut-throat nature of selection and that Rennie won't rest on his laurels in attempt to win back the Bledisloe for the first time since 2002.

Ultimately, Samu has paid the price for the Wallabies' inability to be effective at the attacking breakdown cleanout.

Hanigan's return at blindside flanker sees Harry Wilson shift to the back of the scrum after a memorable debut during last week's epic 16-16 draw in Wellington.

Be there for the third Bledisloe Cup clash at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, Saturday 31 October. Tickets HERE

The other change to the starting side is in the front-row, with Reds rake Brandon Paenga-Amosa to wear the No.2 jersey after Folau Fainga'a was dropped from the side. It was only on Wednesday that Wallabies assistant coach Geoff Parling had said emphatically that the Wallabies need to back their players.

But Rennie has found it necessary to make a change in the key hooking position, with Fainga'a losing three throws in the first half.

The backline stays the same, but the Wallabies will have some serious firepower to bring off the bench with Jordan Petaia named as a replacement after failing in his quest to be fit for Bledisloe I.

Petaia started in the No.13 jersey for the Wallabies during last year's quarter-final loss to England and was thought to be a likely long-term option in the position, but the 20-year-old's hip flexor injury suffered in the Super Rugby AU final against the Brumbies gave yet another opportunity to Hunter Paisami.

Paisami was excellent on debut and has been rewarded for the physicality and composure he showed.

Fullback Tom Banks retains his spot ahead of Dane Haylett-Petty after a solid showing against the All Blacks. Banks was safe under the high ball in the windy Wellington conditions, but will need to be pinpoint with his clearing kicks after being punished for missing touch once last weekend.

Elsewhere on the bench, Reds captain Liam Wright comes in for Rob Valetini.

Wright has built a reputation of being a defensive workhorse, resilient and strong in the lineout and those three attributes will be vital in Auckland.

LISTEN UP! Wallabies half-back Nic White joins host Nick McArdle, former Australian fullback Greg Martin and RUGBY.com.au journalist Christy Doran on The Rugby Nation to dissect Bledisloe I and look ahead to Eden Park.

It's been 34 years since the Wallabies last won at Eden Park against the All Blacks.

It's an intimidating record, particularly given the All Blacks haven't lost at the venue since the French shocked them in 1994.

The Wallabies last year went to the venue attempting to win back the Bledisloe Cup after winning well in Perth a week earlier, but were embarrassed 36-0 on a sorry night for Michael Cheika's men.

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Rennie's decision to change things up despite the Wallabies' impressive showing in Bledisloe I reveals that he's not afraid to make the tough decisions.

“We’ve got a group of 44-men who are all working hard and pushing for selection," Rennie said.

“We've had massive support from back home and as a team we definitely feel that and it’s something we’ll draw on on Sunday afternoon.

“We know that New Zealand will step it up another level this weekend, we’re excited by the challenge ahead."

Wallabies v All Blacks at Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday 18th October. Kick-off: 2pm AEDT

WALLABIES (1-15): James Slipper, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Matt Philip, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (c), Harry Wilson, Nic White, James O'Connor, Marika Koroibete, Matt To'omua, Hunter Paisami, Filipo Daugunu, Tom Banks

Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalaota, Rob Simmons, Liam Wright, Jake Gordon, Jordan Petaia, Reece Hodge

ALL BLACKS (1-15): Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa'i, Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane (c), Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo'unga, Caleb Clarke, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jordie Barrett, Beauden Barrett

Reserves: Codie Taylor, Alex Hodgman,Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Hoskins Sotutu, TJ Perenara, Rieko Ioane, Damian McKenzie