New Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has rolled the dice by naming four debutants in his squad for Sunday’s Bledisloe Cup series opener against New Zealand in Wellington.
In a massive gamble for his first match in charge, Rennie has also included another six players who have made less than 10 appearances for the Wallabies in the hope that the injection of fresh faces will end Australia’s long run of losses against the All Blacks.
Watch every match of the 2020 Bledisloe Cup & Rugby Championship Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly
It has been 19 years since the Wallabies last beat the All Blacks in New Zealand and 18 years since Australia last won the Bledisloe Cup so Rennie is taking a huge risk by choosing such an inexperienced squad.
He has named three uncapped players in the starting side, all from Queensland, blindside flanker Harry Wilson, outside centre Hunter Paisami and Fijian-born winger Filipo Daugunu, plus Brumbies rookie Noah Lolesio on the bench.
“It’s a privilege for me to be able to announce the first Australian side of the year and especially to name a number of players who will wear the gold jersey for the first time,” Rennie said.
“I’ve been impressed with how quickly the squad has come together. There’s a good group of men here and the last three weeks has given us a chance to work hard and learn more about each other.
“We need to demonstrate that brotherhood and connection on Sunday.”
The forward pack includes two players with very little international experience. Pete Samu will earn his 10th cap after being selected at No.8 while Matt Philip will play his fourth test after getting the nod over Rob Simmons to start at lock.
Capped six times but left out of last year’s World Cup squad, Tom Banks was named at fullback, while the bench has some even less experienced players with Rob Valetini and Jake Gordon to make just their second appearances in the gold jersey and reserve hooker Jordan Uelese his 10th.
Captain Michael Hooper was the only Waratahs named in the starting side and will make his 100th test, becoming just the 12th Wallaby to reach the milestone.
Rennie did play it safe in the key playmaking roles, naming the World Cup trio of Nic White, James O’Connor and Matt Toomua at 9, 10 and 12, despite the great form this season from Tate McDermott, Lolesio and Brumbies’ inside centre Irae Simone.
Boom youngster Jordan Petaia was not selected because of fitness concerns and Dane Haylett-Petty was also left out with Reece Hodge named as the reserve outside bank.
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster, also in charge for the first time, said he was expecting a torrid contest.
“We‘re excited by the group. There’s a lot of talent in there and we’ve got players jumping out of their skin and wanting an opportunity,” he said.
“It‘s a Bledisloe series and both teams will be determined to put a marker down. For us, it’s about getting our basics right and focusing on our set piece and momentum, and then letting the guys use their skill sets around the structure.”