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Michael Cheika has given the clearest indication yet of who is likely to play at outside centre for the Wallabies during the Rugby Championship, naming Reece Hodge as a starter at No.13 for tomorrow night’s pre-Bledisloe Cup trial game.
The Wallabies have been hit hard by injury recently, with both Samu Kerevi (bicep) and Tevita Kuridrani (pectoral) out of Bledisloe team contention, and it seems Hodge is in with a good chance of taking the 13 jersey in their place after today’s team news, although Curtis Rona is another option at outside center.
Rona wasn’t picked in the trial side, with Cheika opting against selecting most Waratahs players following their long Super Rugby season. Back-up halfback Jake Gordon and lock Jed Holloway, both of whom have been named on the bench, are the only two Tahs players selected for the Leichhardt Oval match.
David Pocock will start at No.7 and captain the side, with Caleb Timu and Adam Korczyk filling out the back-row alongside the Brumbies flanker. Regular Wallabies Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman will be the starting locks, while Scott Sio, Folau Faingaa and Jermaine Ainsley make up the front row.
With the exception of Hodge, halfback Will Genia and winger Marika Koroibete, the starting backs are light on experience. Queensland playmaker Hamish Stewart will wear the No.10 jersey, and Billy Meakes will partner his Rebels teammate Hodge in the centres.
Jack Maddocks will start opposite Koroibete on the wing, with Brumbies fullback Tom Banks starting at the back.
Cheika has named a 13-man bench, indicating plenty of fringe players will be given a chance to stake their claim for a Bledisloe Cup spot. Those named on the pine include hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa, who started in the No.2 jersey for the Wallabies in the June Tests against Ireland, exciting prop Taniela Tupou and their Reds teammates Izack Rodda, Harry Hockings, Lukhan Tui, Liam Wright and Jordan Petaia.
New Melbourne signing Isi Naisarani has also been named as a reserve, although the Fijian-born forward isn’t eligible to play a Test for the Wallabies until the start of 2019. He’s one of three Rebels on the bench, Tetera Faulkner and Sefa Naivalu being the others, while the Brumbies have just the sole substitute in halfback Joe Powell.
One player not included in the side is Matt Toomua. The Leicester Tigers utility announced his comeback to Australian rugby last night, signing a two-and-a-half deal with Rugby AU and the Melbourne Rebels, but was never in contention for this trial. He is, however, available for Bledisloe Cup selection.
The Wallabies’ trial game will be played at Leichhardt Oval this Friday night at 6:45pm, with free entry for any spectators.
1. Scott Sio (Brumbies)
2. Folau Faingaa (Brumbies)
3. Jermaine Ainsley (Melbourne Rebels)
4. Adam Coleman (Melbourne Rebels)
5. Rory Arnold (Brumbies)
6. Adam Korczyk (Queensland Reds)
7. David Pocock – captain (Brumbies)
8. Caleb Timu (Queensland Reds)
9. Will Genia (Melbourne Rebels)
10. Hamish Stewart (Queensland Reds)
11. Jack Maddocks (Melbourne Rebels)
12. Billy Meakes (Melbourne Rebels)
13. Reece Hodge (Melbourne Rebels)
14. Marika Koroibete (Melbourne Rebels)
15. Tom Banks (Brumbies)
16. Tetera Faulkner (Melbourne Rebels)
17. Brandon Paenga-Amosa (Queensland Reds)
18. Taniela Tupou (Queensland Reds)
19. Izack Rodda (Queensland Reds)
20. Harry Hockings (Queensland Reds)
21. Lukhan Tui (Queensland Reds)
22. Liam Wright (Queensland Reds)
23. Isi Naisarani (Melbourne Rebels)
24. Joe Powell (Brumbies)
27. Jed Holloway (NSW Waratahs)
28. Jordan Petaia (Queensland Reds)
29. Sefa Naivalu (Melbourne Rebels)
30. Jake Gordon (NSW Waratahs)