Foley back in gold; Sotutu starts for New Zealand
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Bernard Foley has been recalled for his first test since the 2019 Rugby World Cup in one of eight changes to Australia’s starting lineup for the opening Bledisloe Cup match against New Zealand.
The test, which is also part of the Rugby Championship, will be played Thursday in Melbourne, where the Australian rules Australian Football League playoffs are dominating local attention ahead of the weekend.
Australia is coming off a 24-8 loss to World Cup champion South Africa on Sept. 3, while the All Blacks had an emphatic 53-3 win over Argentina that took New Zealand from last to first in the Rugby Championship standings.
The All Blacks made two enforced changes on Tuesday, with backrowers Ardie Savea and Shannon Frizell unavailable for selection. Head coach Ian Foster picked Hoskins Sotutu to start at No. 8 for the first time this year and moved Scott Barrett from lock to the blindside flank to make way for the return of Brodie Retallick in the second row.
The Australians were well-beaten by South Africa, putting pressure on coach Dave Rennie to make changes.
Among others, Andrew Kellaway will return at fullback and Jake Gordon will get his first start of the year at scrumhalf in a new combination with 33-year-old, 71-test veteran Foley, who replaces the concussed Noah Lolesio in the No. 10 jersey. Nic White was dropped to the bench after starting at scrumhalf in Australia’s previous seven tests.
“It’s great to have Bernard’s experience and he brings plenty of voice and passion for the gold jersey,” Rennie said. “New Zealand showed their class in a massive win over Argentina last week and will (be) full of confidence.”
Foley, who has played club rugby in Japan since the end of the Rugby World Cup there three years ago, will be the fourth starting flyhalf for Australia this season after injuries to Quade Cooper and Lolesio and form concerns over James O’Connor following one away loss against Argentina.
“I’m a lot more well-rounded in terms of seeing the opportunity and embracing it,” Foley said. “Last time, there was a lot going on, and I was trying to please a lot of people, and doing it for some of the right reasons and some wrong.”
Rennie compared Foley’s return with Cooper’s re-emergence for the Wallabies last season following a club stint in Japan.
“They are very similar characters,” Rennie said. “Fantastic work ethic, real massive contribution off the field around meetings, very strong tactical understanding. It’s been great having him in.”
The rare mid-week test match is the first between Australia and New Zealand in Melbourne since 2010, which paid off in selections for local players.
Rob Leota will return to start on the blindside flank in an all-Melbourne backrow also containing Pete Samu and Rob Valetini.
Jed Holloway moved from the backrow to start at lock for the first time at international level, partnering Matt Philip in the second row.
The All Blacks are chasing back-to-back test wins for the first time in 2022, a victory which would secure the Bledisloe Cup for a 20th consecutive year.
Australia: Andrew Kellaway, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon, Rob Valetini, Pete Samu, Rob Leota, Matt Philip, Jed Holloway, Allan Alaalatoa, David Porecki, James Slipper (captain). Reserves: Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio, Pone Fa’amausili, Darcy Swain, Fraser McReight, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia.
New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Hoskins Sotutu, Sam Cane (captain), Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Tyrel Lomax, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ethan de Groot. Reserves: Dane Coles, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali’i, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Quinn Tupaea.
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