Injury-hit Wallabies make 8 changes
26 November, 2022, 10:04 am
CARDIFF – Ben Donaldson will start at flyhalf for an injury-hit Australia for the first time in Saturday’s (Sunday Fiji time) test against Wales in Cardiff as coach Dave Rennie made eight alterations to the side that lost to Ireland last week.
The Wallabies are without seven players due to injury – Michael Hooper, Andrew Kellaway, Hunter Paisami, Dave Porecki, Taniela Tupou, Rob Valetini and Nic White – following the 13-10 defeat by Ireland in Dublin last Saturday, necessitating a raft of changes for the last test on their European tour. It is only the second cap for New South Wales Waratah Donaldson, 23, and he will partner Jake Gordon, who comes in for White.
“Ben has had a great year. He’s been impressive at training around his skillset and detail and has earned his opportunity to start for his country this week,” Rennie said in a statement naming the team on Thursday.
The 23-year-old Donaldson missed a last gasp kick against Italy in Florence a fortnight ago on his debut, handing the hosts an unlikely victory.
However, he still got the nod for Saturday’s test ahead of Noah Lolesio, who had begun the season as the Wallabies’ first choice at No. 10 but looks to be dropping further down the pecking order.
In the backline, Tom Wright moves from wing to fullback to replace Kellaway with Jordan Petaia coming in on the right wing and Mark Nawaqanitawase switching to the left. Reece Hodge has not played for Australia at centre since 2016 but amid the injury crisis replaces Paisami.
Among the loose forwards Langi Gleeson is in for Valetini and will be making his first test start while Hooper has been replaced on the openside by Fraser McReight. Folau Fainga’a is in for Porecki at hooker.
Uncapped Melbourne Rebel Sam Talakai is in line for potential debut as the tighthead cover.
Australia have lost three out of four matches on their northern hemisphere tour, heaping pressure on Rennie and his staff less than a year out from the World Cup in France.