Wallabies coach Dave Rennie isn‘t advocating a free-for all when it comes to picking players who are based overseas as changes to the Giteau Law loom.
But he was thankful to be able to select Samu Kerevi for Sunday’s third Bledisloe Cup showdown with the All Blacks as he becomes the first overseas-based player that does not meet the current Giteau Law criteria to play for Australia.
Kerevi replaces Wallabies veteran Matt Toomua who was axed among eight changes to the 23-man team as the Quade Cooper fairytale came to an abrupt end.
Rennie made three changes to the starting line-up that was thrashed 57-22 at Eden Park last month – the biggest score the Australians have ever conceded to New Zealand, confident they were the tweaks needed to turn the tables on the Kiwis.
After a “lot of honesty” in a brutal review session post that loss in Auckland, Rennie said the players had acknowledged their performance was not up to international standard.
But finally back on home soil for a match delayed by a week when the All Blacks initially refused to leave Auckland, Rennie, who was “bloody angry” when that happened, said his players were ready to be better.
“We were fired up when we got the initial news, but there are enough motivating factors heading in to this test without talking about the All Blacks,”he said.
“We have to be a hell of a lot better. We are a lot better side that scoreline suggested. But I can say whatever here, it’s what we do on the park.
“I can assure you the team was hurting. We went through a review and there was a lot of honesty throughout that.
“We’ve made a couple of selection changes as well and I’m confident we will have a better defensive performance.”
Rennie made another five changes to his bench, dropping four more players as the Wallabies look to salvage something from the third and final game, having already lost the Bledisloe Cup, and replicate the 47-26 victory Australia achieved in the only other match the teams have played at Optus Stadium.
Young playmakers Noah Lolesio and Tate McDermott will get another shot at the All Blacks as a starting pair.
Rennie said Cooper, who was brought into the squad amid injuries to other playmakers and to help educate fly-half Lolesio, was “close to selection” before being overlooked.
The imminent return of Queensland star James O’Connor for the upcoming Rugby Championship is now likely to push the 33-year-old Cooper back to Japan.
But Rennie said he had “no update” on whether the veteran would remain with the Wallabies beyond this week.
Despite picking Samu, who has been playing in Japan, and with a relaxing of the Giteau Law imminent, Rennie said there had to be caution in opening the floodgates to overseas players.
“We’;ve had lots of discussions around it. What’s important is we are doing what we think is best for rugby in Australia,” he said.
“We don’t want to go wholesale and have lots of players t pick from overseas. I think it will have an effect on domestic rugby.
“Based on the Covid situation, we have had a little bit of leniency around that.”
Izack Rodda will come off the play his first match for the Wallabies since the 2019 World Cup off the bench
Both Hunter Paisami and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto have left the squad to be with their respective partners ahead of the imminent birth of children.
Folau Fainga’a is also set to play his first Test of 2021, named at hooker for Brandon Paenga-Amosa who has a neck injury.
Wallabies v All Blacks, Optus Stadium, Perth, Sunday, September, 5
WALLABIES (15-1): Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Tate McDermott, Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper (c), Lachlan Swinton, Matt Philip, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga‘a, James Slipper
Reserves: Lachlan Lonergan, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Pete Samu, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia
ALL BLACKS (15-1): Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Brad Weber, Ardie Savea (c), Dalton Papalii, Akira Ioane, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, George Bower
Reserves: Samisoni Taukei‘aho, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Angus Ta’avao, Tupou Vaa’i, Ethan Blackadder, TJ Perenara, Damian McKenzie, George Bridge