Wallabies bank on Kerevi, Rodda to make impact on All Blacks

Perth (Australia) (AFP) –


Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is banking on re-called Samu Kerevi and Izack Rodda making an impact against the all-conquering All Blacks on Sunday, admitting his team need to be "a hell of a lot better".

Australia head into the clash at a sell-out Optus Stadium in Perth with the Bledisloe Cup already gone, having lost the opening two games in Auckland last month -- first by 33-25, and then by a record 57-22.

But with Sunday's showdown doubling as round two of the Rugby Championship, which also features South Africa and Argentina, Rennie is keen to see big improvements.

"We're a lot better side than that (57-22) scoreline suggested, we gave up too many soft points," he said. "I can assure you the team was hurting and we're looking for a positive response on Sunday.

"We're clear that we've got to be a hell of a lot better... you go to sleep for 10 minutes against the All Blacks and they can hurt you."

Japan-based centre Kerevi and big lock Rodda will pull on a Wallabies jersey for the first time since the 2019 World Cup in a bid to stop the rot.

Kerevi is back due to a relaxation of the so-called "Giteau's Law", which bars overseas-based players from representing Australia unless they have appeared in at least 60 Tests.

Rennie is now allowed to pick two who do not meet the criteria, allowing Kerevi to make his 34th appearance with the under-performing Matt To'omua axed and Hunter Paisami unavailable.

Rodda returns barely a year after turning his back on Australian rugby for a lucrative contract with Lyon, having refused to take a pay cut at the Queensland Reds when Covid-19 hit Super Rugby.

He has since signed for Western Force next season and will start from the bench in place of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.

"Both Samu and Izack have worked really hard since joining the group, been positive additions and have earned their opportunity," said Rennie.

Folau Fainga'a, meanwhile, will play his first Test of 2021, preferred to Brandon Paenga-Amosa as hooker in an all-ACT Brumbies front row alongside James Slipper and Allan Alaalatoa.

- Top performance -

All Blacks coach Ian Foster was also forced to make changes with captain Sam Whitelock, as well as veterans Aaron Smith and Richie Mo'unga, absent as they support pregnant partners.

With Smith out, Brad Weber was a surprise pick at scrum-half ahead of the experienced TJ Perenara.

Beauden Barrett, meanwhile, returns to the starting side at fly-half while Anton Lienert-Brown is back from injury at centre.

Rieko Ioane moves to the left wing, Will Jordan is on the right wing and Jordie Barrett takes on the fullback role in place of Damian McKenzie, who is relegated to the bench.

Samu Kerevi will make his first appearance for the Wallabies since the 2019 World Cup
Samu Kerevi will make his first appearance for the Wallabies since the 2019 World Cup Anne-Christine POUJOULAT AFP

Scott Barrett comes in for Whitelock in the only change to the forward pack.

"We are ready, and the team is really determined to finish off this block of Tests against Australia with a top performance," said Foster, who was last week reappointed through to the 2023 World Cup.

"We've had a really unique situation going into this Test, with quarantine back in New Zealand and a 'soft' quarantine here in Perth.

"But the work that has gone in preparing the players has been outstanding, so when the whistle goes on Sunday, we'll be ready."

The match was supposed to be played last weekend.

But the All Blacks refused to travel until there was certainty around where the rest of the pandemic-hit Rugby Championship would be played, angering Rennie and Rugby Australia.

It has since been announced that the tournament will be played in Australia's Queensland state.

Australia (15-1): Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete; Noah Lolesio, Tate McDermott; Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper (capt), Lachlan Swinton; Matt Philip, Darcy Swain; Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga'a, James Slipper

Replacements: Lachlan Lonergan, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Pete Samu, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia

New Zealand (15-1): Jordie Barrett; Will Jordan, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, Brad Weber; Ardie Savea (capt), Dalton Papalii, Akira Ioane; Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick; Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, George Bower

Replacements: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Angus Ta'avao, Tupou Vaa'i, Ethan Blackadder, TJ Perenara, Damian McKenzie, George Bridge