Harry Wilson gets nod for Wallabies’ decider as Suliasi Vunivalu waits in wings for debut | Australia rugby union team


The injury-hit Wallabies have reshuffled their pack again for Saturday’s “massive” third Test against England at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Into the back row comes the Queensland forward Harry Wilson for his first appearance of the series with Nick Frost starting in the second-row and James Slipper resuming at loose-head prop for the best-of-three decider.

Reece Hodge will also fill the gap at full-back with Tom Wright moving to the wing while there is also a potential debut off the bench for winger Suliasi Vunivalu, the former NRL and Fiji international rugby league player. The Queensland Reds captain Tate McDermott is set to be involved off the bench but there is no room in the matchday 23 for James O’Connor.

Scrum-half Nic White is set to win his 50th cap with head coach Dave Rennie hoping for a marked improvement on the team’s performance in their 25-17 defeat in Brisbane last weekend. “We know we’re a much better team than how we played in Brisbane,” said Rennie, who welcomes back the fit-again Alan Alaalatoa and Len Ikitau to the bench. “We’ve got to be more clinical but there’s no doubting the character of this group. They’re never going to give in. We’ll fight, play when it’s on to play and kick smart when it’s an option.”

The Wallabies are particularly keen to make a faster start to games, having lost 10 of 11 matches under Rennie in which they have trailed at half-time. Margins in the series to date have been slim with England losing the first Test in Perth 30-28 before bouncing back last weekend. “We’ve got to start better,” confirmed Rennie. “England are too good a side to be given that sort of advantage. We’ve got to be better and we will be.

“It’s been a pretty brutal series so far. But we’ve had a good week of preparation which will allow us to put in a performance that makes Australians proud on Saturday night. As a squad we have an opportunity to go to Sydney and lift some silverware in a series decider and that’s something that highly motivates us. It’s massive and we’re well aware of that.”

The SCG has not hosted a union Test for 36 years and this is the first rugby international in Sydney since 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The match is sold out – the first time the Wallabies will play in front of a full capacity stadium in Australia since the 2019 Bledisloe Cup game against New Zealand in Perth.

Wallabies: Reece Hodge, Tom Wright, Hunter Paisami, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Nic White, Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper, Harry Wilson, Nick Frost, Matt Philip, Taniela Tupou, David Porecki, James Slipper. Reserves: Folau Fainga’a, Angus Bell, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, Len Ikitau, Suliasi Vunivalu.

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