Bledisloe bombshells! Brumbies duo thrown in the deep end as O'Connor ruled out against All Blacks

Thu, 29/10/2020, 12:45 am
Christy Doran
by Christy Doran
Dave Rennie has thrust Noah Lolesio into the playmaking jersey for the Wallabies. Photo: Getty Images
Dave Rennie has thrust Noah Lolesio into the playmaking jersey for the Wallabies. Photo: Getty Images

Noah Lolesio - the 20-year-old sensation, who led the Brumbies to Super Rugby AU glory in September - has been thrown in the deep end after being called up to wear the No.10 jersey against the All Blacks in the Wallabies' do-or-die Bledisloe clash at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.

The confident playmaker, who effortlessly landed a drop goal in the final in his return from a two-month hamstring injury, has been called in to replace James O'Connor, who has been ruled out with a knee-injury.

O'Connor hardly trained at the Wallabies' Test match Tuesday training session.

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

His absence is a crushing blow to the Wallabies' hopes of keeping the series alive and taking the four-match series to a decider in Brisbane a week later.

It also comes on the back of Matt To'omua's groin injury suffered in the second Test across the ditch, which has seen Wallabies coach Dave Rennie call-up inside centre Irae Simone to make his debut too.

In total, Rennie has made five changes to his starting side and another two changes to his bench, with Reds duo Fraser McReight and Tate McDermott also set to make their debuts too.

“It’s really exciting to be able to name four more debutants in the squad this week," Rennie said in a statement.

“Noah and Irae have played a lot of footy together and we have no doubt they’re ready to take the step up to Test rugby."

The other three changes to the starting side had been earmarked, with experienced tight-head prop Allan Alaalatoa rotating with Taniela Tupou.

In the backline, experienced fullback Dane Haylett-Petty replaces Tom Banks, who was solid but failed to own the position during the Eden Park loss, which saw the Wallabies go one-nil down in the series.

Explosive back Jordan Petaia, who sensationally wore the No.13 jersey during the Wallabies' quarter-final loss to England last year as an 18-year-old, rotates with Hunter Paisami on the bench.

While Rennie has kept faith with his tight-five forwards on the bench, the decision to call-up McReight and McDermott are curious.

It's the third time in as many matches that Rennie has dropped his back-row replacement, with McReight - the former Junior Wallabies captain - brought in for Liam Wright, who only one match earlier was brought in for Rob Valetini who had limited minutes off the bench during Bledisloe I's epic 16-16 draw in Wellington.

McReight will bring energy and his on-ball strength will be useful, but there's no doubt that the Wallabies' bench is light on heavy artillery.

McDermott's inclusion, too, raises questions.

The lively halfback was one of the stars of Super Rugby AU and the 22-year-old was expected to make his debut in New Zealand. But Rennie said that Jake Gordon had pipped McDermott because he was a superior kicking option and that key element of the game was thought to be key across the ditch.

Seemingly that school of thought has changed despite two composed performances from Gordon off the bench.

Sydney has been drenched by rain for the past week and it's expected to be another wet night on Saturday, which would usually be conducive to playing territory and field position, but Rennie has opted for pace and will try speed up the game.

"Tate and Fraser have had big Super Rugby seasons and have impressed in training over the past month," Rennie added.


'DID THEY TAKE IT UP A NOTCH?': Wisemantel plays down All Blacks response, says Wallabies must be more 'accurate'

STAYING PUT: Seven years ago James O'Connor ran away from the No.10 jersey. He won't against the All Blacks

'EXPECTATION TO WIN': Rennie not 'scared' to make changes for Bledisloe III

The Wallabies will wear their First Nations jersey in the Test. It's just the second time they will wear the strip since debuting it during their famous win in Brisbane in 2017.

“It’s an especially significant night for us with the chance to represent and celebrate our First Nations people by wearing the Indigenous jersey on home soil in front of our Wallabies family," Rennie said.

“We know New Zealand will pose another tough challenge but we’ve prepared well and will be ready to go on Saturday night.”

WALLABIES (1-15): James Slipper, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Allan Alaalatoa, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Matt Philip, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (c), Harry Wilson, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Marika Koroibete, Irae Simone, Jordan Petaia, Filipo Daugunu, Dane Haylett-Petty

Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Scott Sio, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Fraser McReight, Tate McDermott, Reece Hodge, Hunter Paisami

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