Wallabies hand Reds trio Bledisloe debuts

Rugby

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has wasted no time in commencing the evolution of the national team, handing Test debuts to Queensland Reds youngsters Harry Wilson, Filipo Daugunu and Hunter Paisami in Sunday’s Bledisloe Cup opener in Wellington.

The uncapped trio have been included in a new-look Wallabies squad, which retains only skipper Michael Hooper and winger Marika Koroibete from the team that was thrashed 40-17 by England — Australia’s last outing — at the Rugby World Cup almost exactly one year ago.

Up front, Taniela Tupou has been rewarded for a stellar Super Rugby AU season with a start at tighthead prop while James Slipper is a somewhat surprising inclusion ahead of incumbent Scott Sio in the No. 1 jersey. Folau Fainga’a completes the front-row at hooker.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Matt Philip combine in the second-row while Wilson and Hooper are joined in the back-row by Brumbies No. 8 Pete Samu.

In the backs, Nic White and James O’Connor continue the recent shuffling of the Wallabies halves, the Reds star returning to the position he last filled at Test level against the touring British & Irish Lions in 2013.

Injury has prevented Jordan Petaia from starting at outside centre with Reds teammate Paisami combining with the experienced Matt To’omua in midfield.

Brumbies fullback Tom Banks completes the back three alongside Daugunu and Koroibete.

“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.”

“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.”

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