Wallabies, All Blacks name Bledisloe debutants

Rugby

Reece Hodge will play his first Test for Australia at flyhalf against New Zealand in Brisbane this weekend after coach Dave Rennie made six changes to his starting side for the fourth Bledisloe Test.

With James O’Connor still struggling with a knee injury that ruled him out of last weekend’s record 43-5 loss to the All Blacks, 42-Test veteran Hodge was named in the side in place of Noah Lolesio, who had a poor debut in Sydney.

An injury to lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto also forced a change in the second row with Rob Simmons set to earn his 104th cap alongside Matt Philip.

While Hodge and Simmons will bring an injection of experience to the team, Rennie continued to blood youngsters with right winger Tom Wright and blindside flanker Lachlan Swinton handed their international debuts.

Fleet-footed rugby league convert Wright replaces Filipo Daugunu outside a new centre partnership made up of Queensland youngsters Jordan Petaia and Hunter Paisami.

Tom Banks was named at full back after last week giving way to the experienced Dane Haylett-Petty, who drops out of the 23 along with centre Irae Simone.

Angus Bell could also make his Test debut off the bench after being named as back-up to loosehead prop James Slipper, who will become the 13th Australian to win 100 test caps.

“It’s going to be a really special night for James … and I know the team will be doing everything they can to make sure it’s a memorable result,” Rennie said in a statement.

Australia drew their first Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand last month before heavy defeats in Auckland and Sydney cost them the series.

Meanwhile, Akira Ioane will make his long-awaited Test debut for New Zealand after years on the fringes of the squad as one of four new caps named by Ian Foster.

Ioane will start at blindside flanker, with Shannon Frizell dropping out of the matchday squad after he started the last three games against the Wallabies.

“We’ve been really impressed with Akira,” Foster said in a statement. “He’s keen, he’s ready and to have his first Test start is pretty special.”

The All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup for the 18th successive season last week in Sydney with a record 43-5 victory, which also gave them a bonus point in the Tri-Nations standings.

Ioane will join younger brother Rieko, who has been brought back onto the left wing to replace Caleb Clarke, after he started the Test season at centre but was then named on the bench last week, where he scored a try.

The Ioanes join all three Barrett brothers in the starting side, with Jordie shifting from wing to fullback, while Beauden moves into his preferred flyhalf role to replace Richie Mo’unga, who was superb against the Wallabies last week.

Scott Barrett has also predictably been given a start after he recovered from foot surgery and played the last two games from the bench.

Uncapped loose forward Cullen Grace, hooker Asafo Aumua and utility back Will Jordan are expected to make their debuts from the bench.

“I know Asafo is also excited for his first test and he’ll bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm when he comes off the bench,” Foster said while adding that Grace and Jordan had also impressed with their work at training.

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