Hooper back to lead Wallabies against France
Australia coach Dave Rennie has selected Noah Lolesio at first five-eighths for Wednesday’s first test against France in Brisbane with James O’Connor ruled out of the match by a persistent groin injury.
Rennie handed Lolesio his first cap last year but the then 20-year-old endured a torrid debut as the All Blacks hammered the Wallabies 43-5 to claim the Bledisloe Cup for an 18th successive year.
Lolesio will make his second test start at Lang Park with Matt Toomua alongside him after the experienced inside centre recovered from a neck problem that had threatened his participation.
In more good news on the injury front, Jake Gordon will start at halfback after making a quicker than expected recovery from a knee injury.
Up to four players could win their first test caps from the bench with hooker Lachlan Lonergan, lock Darcy Swain, centre Len Ikitau and outside back Andrew Kellaway all named among the replacements.
“The whole squad has been training really hard over the past three weeks to prepare for what’s going to be an exciting, tough series against the French,” Rennie said.
“We’ve always selected a side based on earning the right to wear the jersey, and this team is no different.”
Blindside flanker Rob Valetini will make his first start in his fifth test, with Australia expecting a strong physical challenge from the French pack.
Matt Philip and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto will bring heft and aggression to the second row, while Michael Hooper returns from a sabbatical in Japan to captain the side from openside flanker.
Rugby Australia moved the test from Sydney to Brisbane last week because of a Covid-19 lockdown in the country’s biggest city.
France coach Fabien Galthie named his team on Saturday with seven new caps in his matchday 23. The French players have been in mandatory quarantine in Sydney and will travel to Brisbane on Tuesday.
Australia team: 15-Tom Banks, 14-Tom Wright, 13-Hunter Paisami, 12-Matt To’omua, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Noah Lolesio, 9-Jake Gordon, 8-Harry Wilson, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-Rob Valetini, 5-Matt Philip, 4-Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3-Allan Alaalatoa, 2-Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1-James Slipper
Replacements: 16-Lachlan Lonergan, 17-Angus Bell, 18-Taniela Tupou, 19-Darcy Swain, 20-Isi Naisarani, 21-Tate McDermott, 22-Len Ikitau, 23-Andrew Kellaway.
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