Melbourne Storm grand final hero Suliasi Vunivalu will have to wait until 2021 before making his Wallabies debut after coach Dave Rennie ruled his prized recruit out of selection for the two upcoming Tri nations Tests against Argentina.
Vunivalu joined the Wallabies at their training base in the Hunter Valley this week, raising the prospect he could make an early appearance in the gold jersey, but Rennie quickly poured cold water on the idea.
“There’s no plan to use Suli in the two Argentina games unless we have got a spate of injuries,” Rennie said.
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“This was a good chance for us to bring him in and get to know him a bit better, a chance for him to get some understanding of what we think is important, and hopefully when he heads back to Super Rugby he’ll have a bit of an understanding about two or three key areas that he can put a bit of time into that’ll help his transition.”
With a surplus of quality wingers, including two other former NRL converts in Marika Koroibete and Tom Wright, Rennie was adamant that first priority would go to players who have already been training with the national squad.
Rennie has been chopping and changing his side during the four Tests against New Zealand but wants to start building combinations in the hope of string a few wins together.
“Even though we’ve used 10 debutants in that series, they’ve all earned the right to play,” he said.
“We’re not going to give jerseys away but there is good competition for places and if we think someone is ready to go we’ll play them. It’s not a case of earmarking games for individuals, it’s based on where we’re at.”
That could be good news for utility back Reece Hodge, who had a strong game in last weekend’s win over the All Blacks when he was thrown into the playmaking role.
James O’Connor will almost certainly be handed the No. 10 jersey when he’s fit but is still battling a knee injury from the second Test in Auckland and is running out of time with the Wallabies next match against the Pumas in Newcastle on November 21.
“To be a chance, he’d need to be able to train fully next week, but we’re really happy with the way Reece went and so he’s put a lot of pressure on us to give him another crack there,” Rennie said.
“The only game he’s started for us has been at 10 and I thought he was excellent.
“He delivered on all the areas that are the reason we picked him.
“He gave us a bit of experience, he’s got a big kicking game, we wanted to put some scoreboard pressure on the All Blacks so his ability to kick goals and from a long way out, and then obviously he’s a big man who can carry and defend well in that channel, so I’m sure he’s pretty rapt with his performance and he had a massive impact on the result.”
All Blacks name strong squad to play Pumas
Even on the rare occasions when they lose to the Wallabies, the All Blacks just can’t help themselves from undermining Australia’s success.
After fielding a weakened side against the Wallabies in last weekend’s 24-22 loss at Brisbane, the All Blacks have recalled their big guns for Saturday’s Tri-Nations clash with Argentina at Bankwest Stadium.
New Zealand coach Ian Foster is still maintaining the All Blacks didn’t go easy on the Wallabies in last weekend’s dead rubber because his side had already wrapped up the Bledisloe Cup, but he gave it away when he said they were not taking similar chances against the Pumas.
“The Argentinians are well coached by Mario Ledesma and we have a lot of respect for them,” Foster said.
Foster’s side to face the Pumas is almost identical to the team that humiliated the Wallabies 43-5 in Sydney.
Man of the match Richie Mo’unga returns at five-eighth, along with first-choice halfback Aaron Smith while hulking winger Caleb Clarke and inside centre Jack Goodhue are also back.
In the pack, loose forward Shannon Frizell returns while the entire front row has been changed – with loosehead prop Joe Moody back from injury, Dane Coles taking over from Codie Taylor at hooker and tighthead prop Tyrel Lomax coming in for Ofa Tu‘ungafasi, who was banned for the rest of the tournament for his dangerous tackle on Tom Wright.
“We were bitterly disappointed with the loss against Australia on the weekend, but we‘ve taken a lot of lessons from that game,” Foster said.
“Specifically, we need to be smarter in seeing space and executing our plan around that. We also want to continue growing our work at the breakdown, both on attack and in defence, as I feel we are making great progress here.
“We‘re now into the next phase of the tournament playing against Argentina and it will be exciting playing a new opposition.”
Argentina – playing their first match in 2020 – have named three new caps in their line-up.
Santiago Chocobares will start at inside centre while Santiago Grondona and Lucio Cinti were both included on the bench.
15-Beauden Barrett, 14-Jordie Barrett, 13-Anton Lienert-Brown, 12-Jack Goodhue, 11-Caleb Clarke, 10-Richie Mo‘unga, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Ardie Savea, 7-Sam Cane (captain), 6-Shannon Frizell, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Patrick Tuipulotu, 3-Tyrel Lomax, 2-Dane Coles, 1-Joe Moody.
16-Codie Taylor, 17-Alex Hodgman, 18-Nepo Laulala, 19-Tupou Vaa‘i, 20-Hoskins Sotutu, 21-Brad Weber, 22-Rieko Ioane, 23-Damian McKenzie.
15-Santiago Carreras,14-Bautista Delguy, 13-Matias Orlando, 12-Santiago Chocobares, 11-Juan Imhoff, 10-Nicolas Sánchez, 9-Tomas Cubelli, 8-Rodrigo Bruni, 7-Marcos Kremer, 6-Pablo Matera (captain), 5-Matias Alemanno, 4-Guido Petti, 3-Francisco Gómez-Kodela, 2-Julian Montoya, 1-Nahuel Tetaz Chapparo.
Reserves: 16-Facundo Bosch, 17-Mayco Vivas, 18-Santiago Medrano, 19-Santiago Grondona, 20-Tomas Lezana, 21-Gonzalo Bertranou, 22-Lucio Cinti, 23-Santiago Cordero.