Australia flyhalf James O’Connor will start his first test this year in the absence of injured Quade Cooper as coach Dave Rennie largely kept faith with his winning selection ahead of the Rugby Championship fixture against Argentina in San Juan on Saturday.
Cooper limped out of last weekend’s 46-21 victory over The Pumas in Mendoza with a ruptured Achilles, leaving the Wallabies to find a replacement in the number 10 jersey for the rest of 2022 at least. It will be O’Connor for this week, but he will have to show a vast improvement after a woeful performance off the bench in the second test against England last month.
Other changes to the starting XV see prop Taniela Tupou come in for Allan Ala’alatoa, who has returned to Australia after a family bereavement, while Lalakai Foketi gets a first start at inside center in place of Hunter Paisami, who took a blow to the head last weekend. There is also a change at lock as Matt Philip drops out and is replaced by Rory Arnold, who takes the number four jersey with Darcy Swain switching to five.
Center Irae Simone is among the replacements this week, while uncapped prop Pone Fa’amausili is also on the bench and will likely debut. Prop James Slipper will continue to captain the side in the absence of Michael Hooper, who returned home ahead of the first test after confiding in team management that he was not in the right frame of mind to play.
“After a tough, physical game last week it’s great to be able to call on the experience of guys like James and Rory and also see the team’s excitement for La and Irae who get to wear the Wallaby gold again,” Rennie said in a media release from Rugby Australia. “Argentina and their supporters will be expecting a response this weekend and we’ll need to increase our physicality and accuracy to get another positive result in San Juan.”
Hooker Folau Fainga’a will be between Tupou and Slipper, while the back row of the scrum contains number eight Rob Valetini, Jed Holloway and Hooper’s replacement Fraser McReight. Scrumhalf Nic White partners O’Connor, with Len Ikitau at outside center alongside Foketi. The back three is made up of fullback Tom Wright, and wings Jordan Petaia and Marika Koroibete.
Team: 15-Tom Wright, 14-Jordan Petaia, 13-Len Ikitau, 12-Lalakai Foketi, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-James O’Connor, 9-Nic White, 8-Rob Valetini, 7-Fraser McReight, 6 -Jed Holloway, 5-Darcy Swain, 4-Rory Arnold, 3-Taniela Tupou, 2-Folau Fainga’a, 1-James Slipper (captain) Replacements: 16-Lachlan Lonergan, 17-Matt Gibbon, 18-Pone Fa’ amausili*, 19-Nick Frost, 20-Pete Samu, 21-Tate McDermott, 22-Irae Simone, 23-Reece Hodge
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