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Wallabies spring another surprise as Hodge named at 10 to face All Blacks

Thu, 05/11/2020, 12:45 am
Christy Doran
by Christy Doran
Reece Hodge has been named at No.10 for the Wallabies for the second time in his career. Photo: Getty Images
Reece Hodge has been named at No.10 for the Wallabies for the second time in his career. Photo: Getty Images

Reece Hodge will wear the No.10 jersey for just the second time in his international career, after the utility specialist was promoted from the reserves to face the All Blacks in the fourth and final Bledisloe Cup Test of the year on Saturday in Brisbane.

He replaces Noah Lolesio, who drops back to the bench, with regular fly-half James O'Connor still not 100 per cent fit after suffering an MCL injury in Bledisloe II at Eden Park last month.

It's yet another selection bombshell, with new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie taking an unusual conservative approach by promoting Hodge, who last year played on the wing at the World Cup and generally looks most comfortable at the back, to the main playmaking position.

Hodge's one and only appearance in the No.10 jersey came in 2017, when he helped the Wallabies to a 63-30 win over Japan in Tokyo. But the experiment was short lived at Test level, and hitherto hadn't been attempted again.

Rarely too has he been used at fly-half in Super Rugby either, with Hodge generally floating between the centres and back three positions. Even last Thursday, when Rennie announced his side, the new Wallabies coach said that Hodge's versatility had hampered his chances of starting. 

The injuries to O'Connor and Matt To'omua, as well as Lolesio's tough debut, have forced Rennie's hand.

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He is not the only major backline change, with Hunter Paisami brought in for Irae Simone - who has been left out from the 23 all together - at inside centre.

Brumbies outside backs Tom Banks and Tom Wright, who will make his debut on the right-wing, have been called in for Dane Haylett-Petty and Filipo Daugunu, with the latter joining Lolesio on the bench.

It's the second time in as many matches that the backline has been radically changed.

While there's a more solid look in defence, none of Hodge, Paisami and fullback Banks are ball-playing backs and instead prefer the direct route. Perhaps that's what's needed after the Wallabies were guilty of kicking the ball away during their 43-5 loss at the Olympic stadium last week.

Up front, Rennie has made two changes too.

The first has been forced, with veteran Rob Simmons earning a recall to the starting side after the injury to Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, while Lachie Swinton, as reported earlier on Thursday, will make his debut at blindside flanker.

READ MORE:

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'FIVE OR SIX WEEKS INTO A FOUR-YEAR CAMPAIGN': Rennie 'gutted' but realistic about where Wallabies sit

Swinton has been selected to bring some mongrel and fear back into the Wallabies pack.

A player with plenty of aggression, Swinton will be encouraged to play to his strengths, which are strong carries and big hits. The concern, similarly to Daugunu, is whether he can keep his head.

Talented Waratahs youngster Angus Bell is also in-line to make his debut, after being named ahead of loose-head prop Scott Sio on the bench.

Meanwhile, former Queensland Reds captain James Slipper will become the 13th Wallaby to play 100 Tests.

“It’s going to be a really special night for James in front of his family and friends back at his home ground and I know the team will be doing everything they can to make sure it’s a memorable result," Rennie said.

“Lachlan, Tom and Angus have been excellent over the past seven weeks and have earned their first jersey for Australia through hard work and good performances. 

“As a whole group we were really disappointed after last weekend and we get a chance to show our character on Saturday in Brisbane."

WALLABIES (1-15): James Slipper, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Matt Philip, Lachie Swinton, Michael Hooper (c), Harry Wilson, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Tom Wright, Tom Banks

RESERVES: Folau Fainga'a, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Ned Hanigan, Liam Wright, Tate McDermott, Noah Lolesio, Filipo Daugunu

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