Wallabies place faith in Reece Hodge at five-eighth for final Bledisloe Cup Test

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has named Reece Hodge at five-eighth for Saturday night’s final Bledisloe Cup clash in Brisbane, while Tom Wright and Lachie Swinton will make their Test debuts.

The goalkicking Hodge, a utility back, has replaced Noah Lolesio in the number 10 jersey in the wake of the Wallabies’ record 43-5 loss to New Zealand in Sydney last Saturday night.

The All Blacks posted their largest winning margin over the Wallabies with the victory, which secured the Bledisloe Cup for the visitors.

Saturday night’s Test at Lang Park, which doubles as the second match of the Tri Nations tournament, will be Hodge’s first Wallabies start of 2020.

Hodge has only started at five-eighth for the Wallabies once before, back in 2017 against Japan.

Winger Wright and flanker Lachie Swinton will also start, becoming the eighth and ninth players to make their Test debuts under Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.

Wright’s inclusion has forced Filipo Daugunu to the reserves bench, while Swinton’s start has relegated his Waratahs teammate Ned Hanigan to a finisher’s role.

Swinton will form a dynamic Wallabies back row with fellow emerging star Harry Wilson and skipper Michael Hooper.

Inside centre Irae Simone has paid the price for the defeat to the All Blacks last weekend. He has been dropped altogether from the Wallabies’ matchday squad, with Hunter Paisami recalled in the centres to partner Jordan Petaia.

An Australian rugby union international holds onto the ball as he is tackled by two defenders.An Australian rugby union international holds onto the ball as he is tackled by two defenders.
Hunter Paisami returns to the Wallabies’ starting XV.(AP/Photosport: Brett Phibbs)

Tom Banks also returns at fullback in place of Dane Haylett-Petty, while James Slipper has been retained at prop for what will be his 100th Test.

Hooker Folau Fainga’a has been selected on the reserves bench alongside props Taniela Tupou and Angus Bell, who is set to follow in his father Mark’s footsteps with his first Test cap off the bench.

Hanigan and Queensland Reds captain Liam Wright will provide cover to the remaining forwards.

After making his debut last weekend, Tate McDermott will again be called upon to provide spark as the replacement halfback. Lolesio and the electric Daugunu round out the bench.

Meanwhile, the All Blacks have named four players to make their Test debut in Brisbane, while also selecting a new halves pairing.

The All Blacks have selected blindside flanker Akira Ioane in the starting XV, while hooker Asafo Aumua and youngsters Cullen Grace and Will Jordan have been included on the bench.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster has made a number of other changes to his squad, with Ardie Savea named at number eight following his return from paternity leave.

TJ Perenara will start at halfback, partnering Beauden Barrett in place of rested duo Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga.

Jordie Barrett will play at fullback.