SYDNEY (Reuters) – Utility back Reece Hodge will fill the Wallabies’ troublesome centre position for Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with the All Blacks in Sydney.
Hodge, who spent much of the season at flyhalf for the Melbourne Rebels, has played virtually every other backline position for the Wallabies and steps in for the injured Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika also recalled hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and utility back Matt Toomua to the side. Both have been playing club rugby in England, with Toomua returning home next season to link with the Rebels.
Cheika was also able to include captain Michael Hooper and wing Dane Haylett-Petty to the starting side after both recovered from long-term injuries.
Hooper had been battling a hamstring injury he sustained in the 2-1 series loss to Ireland in June and will link up again with David Pocock in the loose forwards trio.
To offset the relatively small Hooper and Pocock duo, Cheika has added the hulking Lukhan Tui, who can also play lock, to the side of the scrum as blindside flanker.
Outside back Jack Maddocks is the only uncapped player in the 23-man squad and could make his test debut from the bench.
The Wallabies won their last meeting with the All Blacks 23-18 in Brisbane last year.
Team: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Dayne Haylett-Petty, 13-Reece Hodge, 12-Kurtley Beale, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Bernard Foley, 9-Will Genia, 8-David Pocock, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-Lukhan Tui, 5-Adam Coleman, 4-Izack Rodda, 3-Sekope Kepu, 2-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1-Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16-Tolu Latu, 17-Allan Alaalatoa, 18-Taniela Tupou, 19-Rob Simmons, 20-Pete Samu, 21-Nick Phipps, 22-Matt Toomua, 23-Jack Maddocks
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)