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Choose your Wallabies XV: Looking at the biggest battles for selection

Wed, 29/06/2022, 2:21 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie spoke to media from the Sunshine Coast.

The build and hype continues to grow as the Wallabies prepare to face England on July 2 in Perth.

With this, fans and pundits alike start to speculate what the make-up of the team will be for the first Test.

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Growing depth across Australian Rugby ensures there is plenty of competition for positions heading into the first Test of the season.

Rugby.com.au looks at the biggest positions of contention for the Wallabies.

HAVE YOUR SAY: SCROLL TO THE END OR CLICK THIS LINK TO SELECT YOUR WALLABIES TEAM

Second row

The injury to Izack Rodda ensures there will be at least one debutant named for the first Test in a new-look lock department.

Matt Philip is the most experienced player with 20 caps, with Darcy Swain one of several players blooded in 2021.

Brumbies team-mates Nick Frost and Cadeyrn Neville will be eager to turn their consistent form into a maiden cap following years sitting on selectors' radars without a call-up.

All three were rotated by Dan McKellar in 2022, who slots into his role as forwards coach, fighting to fill the void left by the absence of Rodda and international duo Rory Arnold and Will Skelton.

Jed Holloway rounds out the candidates after his incredible comeback season, one of the Waratahs' best in their remarkable push for the finals.

Rennie has hinted Holloway could be used more as a 6/8, which gives him an edge as a potential finisher over his fellow locks, however enters the first Test under an injury cloud.

Choose Your Wallabies XV below
Scroll to the end to choose your Wallabies side for the first Test

Back Row

To play two predominately number eights or not? That's the big question facing Rennie and the coaching staff.

Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper is a given at number seven, but who is selected for the other two backrow spots remain firmly up for grabs.

Rob Valetini and Harry Wilson have the standout forwards from Super Rugby Pacific, however, have often found themselves battling for positions at the back of the scrum.

Valetini features more as a blindside in Super Rugby, although he's admitted in the past he sees himself more as a number eight, where he has been used often for the Wallabies.

Rob Leota impressed when selected alongside Hooper and Valetini, picking up from where he left off after his Rebels return from injury.

When asked about the combinations, Rennie left all options on the table, including Holloway as touched on in the locks discussion.

"Yep, that's a possibility," Rennie replied when asked about a Valetini-Wilson combo. "We've got Rob Leota who finished the [2021] season with us and he's been excellent.

"We've got Jed Holloway who's predominantly played lock, and he could play lock for us, but he's a genuine 6 option, he's got a really good skill set and that sort of thing, so he'll push close.

"So we've got some genuine competition for places there... Jed's played a lot of lock for the Waratahs, basically all season. But he's certainly got the skill set to play 6 and 8, so from that perspective it gives us flexibility."

Halves

The Wallabies enter 2022 with plenty of options in their halves after trialling several combinations last season.

Nic White is the incumbent scrumhalf after strong showings in the Rugby Championship and Spring Tour.

He is closely trailed by Tate McDermott and Jake Gordon, with both captains producing inspirational showings for their respective states in Super Rugby Pacific.

As for flyhalves, Quade Cooper will be eager to reclaim his spot after missing the end-of-season tour, allowing James O'Connor to step up and make the position his own.

However, Noah Lolesio is arguably the in-form option after nearly guiding the Brumbies to the Super Rugby Pacific Final.

Within this group, there are several partnerships that have thrived in the past; from tried and tested experience (White/Cooper & McDermott/Lolesio) to club combinations (White/Lolesio & McDermott/O'Connor)

Outside backs

The Wallabies have several options that can fill in across the back three, setting up an exciting battle for positions.

The returning Marika Koroibete and Andrew Kellaway remain favourites to slot onto the wing after emerging as key players for the Wallabies.

Despite this, the impending kicking barrage from the English could see Rennie weigh up the selection of Jordan Petaia, Tom Wright or even league convert Suliasi Vunivalu to nullify the effectiveness.

Petaia also features in the conversations at fullback, battling Tom Banks as the Brumby returns from injury.

Andrew Kellaway has also been floated as an option, with James O'Connor the big bolter after revealing conversations had emerged with the coaching staff last year about making the move to the back.

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