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O'Connor at 10, four debutants in Wallabies team for Bledisloe 1

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8th October, 2020
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The first Wallabies team of the Dave Rennie era has been announced, the new coach naming three debutants in his matchday squad for Bledisloe 1.

Reds backrower Harry Wilson will start at blindside flanker and with Jordan Petaia ruled out of the match as he recovers from a hip flexor injury, Hunter Paisami has been handed an international debut at outside centre. Winger Filipo Daugunu rounds out the trio of Queensland debutants in the starting XV, while young Brumbies playmaker Noah Lolesio has been named on the bench in his first Test.

James O’Connor has been handed the reins of the side at flyhalf after an excellent season wearing the no.10 jersey for Queensland, with Matt To’omua slotting in at inside centre.

The other major selection battle, that of tighthead prop, has gone to Taniela Tupou. The Queensland no.3 has been rewarded for a dominant Super Rugby AU season, forcing incumbent tighthead Allan Alaalatoa to the bench. Tupou will be joined in the starting front by Brumbies pair James Slipper and Folau Fainga’a, with Jordan Uelese and Scott Sio on the bench.

In the second row, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto partners Matt Philip, while captain Michael Hooper will bring up his 100th Test, starting in the back row alongside Wilson and Pete Samu.

Tom Banks has been named at fullback following his strong finish to the Super Rugby season with the Brumbies, although the other main contender for the position, Dane Haylett-Petty is still out with a groin injury. He’s expected to be available for Bledisloe 2 next week. Reigning John Eales Medallist Marika Koroibete takes his regular place on the left wing to round out the back three.

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There is something of a surprise on the pine, with Jake Gordon beating out Tate McDermott and Joe Powell for the backup halfback spot behind starter Nic White.

McDermott enjoyed a strong run of form to help guide Queensland into the Super Rugby final, while Powell was one of the best players on the park in the decider, however Rennie opted instead for Gordon, citing a stronger kicking game from the Waratahs scrumhalf as one of the factors that got him the nod in a tight selection race.

Rob Valetini, who ended the Super Rugby season coming off the bench for the Brumbies, will take up the same role in his second Test, pipping the likes of Liam Wright and Fraser McReight for the last reserve forwards spot, and Waratahs veteran Rob Simmons is the backup lock.

Reece Hodge takes the final spot on the bench as the utility back.

Wallabies team for Bledisloe 1

1. James Slipper
2. Folau Fainga’a
3. Taniela Tupou
4. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
5. Matt Philip
6. Harry Wilson
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Pete Samu
9. Nic White
10. James O’Connor
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Matt To’omua
13. Hunter Paisami
14. Filipo Daugunu
15. Tom Banks

Bench
16. Jordan Uelese
17. Scott Sio
18. Allan Alaalatoa
19. Rob Simmons
20. Rob Valetini
21. Jake Gordon
22. Noah Lolesio
23. Reece Hodge