Wright captains new-look Wallabies in Schmidt's first Test

Liam Wright talks to team mates during a Wallabies training session at David Phillips Sports Complex on July 4, 2024 in Sydney, Australia
Liam Wright talks to team mates during a Wallabies training session at David Phillips Sports Complex on July 4, 2024 in Sydney, Australia
Image: Matt King/Getty Images

Liam Wright will become the seventh Wallabies captain in little more than a year when the blindside flanker leads out a new-look Australia team against Wales on Saturday in Joe Schmidt's first Test as coach.

New Zealander Schmidt's match day squad features seven uncapped players and only six survivors of the 40-6 loss to Wales at last year's World Cup that marked the nadir of Eddie Jones's chaotic second reign.

Jones rejects Noah Lolesio and Jake Gordon start at flyhalf and scrumhalf respectively, while another, fullback Tom Wright, has been handed the number 15 jersey.

Josh Flook will win his first cap at outside centre in the absence of the injured Len Ikitau with lock Jeremy Williams the other starting debutant alongside the recalled Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in the second row.

Matt Faessler will make his first Test start at hooker in a front row also featuring Taniela Tupou and experienced loosehead prop James Slipper, who will win his 135th cap.

Wright will win his sixth cap in the back row with Queensland Reds teammate Fraser McReight on the other flank and powerhouse Rob Valetini at number eight.

The bench features five potential debutants in prop Isaac Kailea, lock Angus Blyth, loose forward Charlie Cale, winger Dylan Pietsch and flyhalf Tom Lynagh, the 21-year-old son of Wallabies great Michael.

Pietsch will become the 15th Indigenous Australian to play for the Wallabies if he gets on the pitch at his home Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday.

Schmidt elected not to choose any players based overseas or players leaving Australian rugby at the end of the season for the two tests against Wales and one against Georgia in July.

“The squad has worked hard over the last week or so to prepare as best we can for what's going to be an incredibly tough Test against Wales,” the former Ireland coach said.

Team: 15-Tom Wright, 14-Andrew Kellaway, 13-Josh Flook, 12-Hunter Paisami, 11-Filipo Daugunu, 10-Noah Lolesio, 9-Jake Gordon, 8-Rob Valetini, 7-Fraser McReight, 6-Liam Wright (captain), 5-Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4-Jeremy Williams, 3-Taniela Tupou, 2-Matt Faessler, 1-James Slipper. Replacements: 16-Billy Pollard, 17-Isaac Kailea, 18-Allan Alaalatoa, 19-Angus Blyth, 20-Charlie Cale, 21-Tate McDermott, 22-Tom Lynagh, 23-Dylan Pietsch.

Meanwhile, Ben Thomas will play flyhalf for Wales for the first time in three years against Australia and Josh Hathaway will make his debut on the wing after Warren Gatland overhauled his team.

Wales, beaten 41-13 by world champions SA at Twickenham two weeks ago, thrashed the Wallabies 40-6 at last year's World Cup but only three starters from that clash in Lyon will back up on Saturday.

Thomas, usually an inside centre at club level, will play outside his Cardiff team mate Ellis Bevan, the scrumhalf who made his debut against the Springboks, while Hathaway gets his chance on the right wing with Liam Williams moving to fullback.

Hooker Dewi Lake will again captain the side from the front row alongside Sydney-born prop Archie Griffin, who gets his first Test start at tighthead in place of the injured Keiron Assiratti.

Gatland has chosen a new second row in Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza, while Tommy Reffell returns at openside flanker for James Botham after missing the SA loss through injury.

Wales have not won a Test against the Wallabies in Australia since 1969 and their opponents will be keen to hit the ground running in their first Test under new coach Joe Schmidt.

Team: 15-Liam Williams, 14-Josh Hathaway, 13-Owen Watkin, 12-Mason Grady, 11-Rio Dyer, 10-Ben Thomas, 9-Ellis Bevan, 8-Aaron Wainwright, 7-Tommy Reffell, 6-Taine Plumtree, 5-Dafydd Jenkins, 4-Christ Tshiunza, 3-Archie Griffin, 2-Dewi Lake (captain), 1-Gareth Thomas. Replacements: 16-Evan Lloyd, 17-Kemsley Mathias, 18-Harri O’Connor, 19-Cory Hill, 20-James Botham, 21-Kieran Hardy, 22-Sam Costelow, 23-Nick Tompkins — Reuters



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