O’Connor to play first Test this season, Swinton dropped for Pumas clash

We’re sorry, this service is currently unavailable. Please try again later.

Advertisement

O’Connor to play first Test this season, Swinton dropped for Pumas clash

By Sam Phillips

Reece Hodge has beaten James O’Connor in the race for the vacant fullback jersey in the Wallabies side to face Argentina in Townsville on Saturday night.

An arm fracture suffered by incumbent fullback Tom Banks – who will miss the next eight to 10 weeks – has forced the first of two changes to the starting XV for the Queensland Country Bank Stadium clash and Dave Rennie has opted for the player often deemed the Wallabies’ Mr Fix-It.

The other change is at No. 6, where Rob Leota has earned his first Test start. The Rebels forward made his debut off the bench in the first of back-to-back wins against the Springboks but didn’t feature in the second match.

He has replaced Lachlan Swinton, who has been omitted from the 23-man squad altogether.

“It’s a really proud moment for Rob and his family to earn his first start in Wallaby gold and we’re all rapt for him,” Rennie said via statement.

“He’s really impressed us with his work ethic on and off the field and worked hard for this opportunity.”

Reece Hodge and Quade Cooper after the Wallabies’ victory over the Springboks on Saturday.

Reece Hodge and Quade Cooper after the Wallabies’ victory over the Springboks on Saturday.Credit:Getty

Hodge’s promotion to the starting XV has left a vacant slot on the bench, which will be filled by O’Connor. It’s the first time the Queensland Reds star has been named in a Wallabies squad this season.

Sources with knowledge of the thinking behind the team’s selection have told the Herald O’Connor’s lack of game time – the star playmaker has been sidelined due to injury since May – and Jordan Petaia’s lack of experience at fullback were taken into consideration.

Advertisement
Loading

The Wallabies also place great emphasis on fullbacks that can effectively diffuse the high ball and the selection panel have backed Hodge to improve on a shaky start in that department against South Africa.

With two Tests against Argentina to be followed by a four-Test spring tour, the selection has provided a golden opportunity for Hodge to stake a claim for a regular position in the starting XV – a chance only afforded to him on a handful of occasions through a career in which he has largely been utilised as a substitute.

While Banks is viewed internally as an important piece in the team the Wallabies are building for the 2023 World Cup, his performances over the last two years have left the door open for one of Hodge or Petaia, who is expected to play more fullback for the Queensland Reds next season, to challenge for the No. 15 jersey.

Meanwhile, Sean McMahon’s Test comeback will have to wait at least another week.

Rennie has opted to stick with Pete Samu - who has excelled since replacing Harry Wilson in the squad - on the bench.

Wallabies team to play Argentina at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville on Saturday 25 September, 8:05pm AEST

Wallabies (1-15): 1. James Slipper (108 Tests), Folau Fainga’a (19 Tests), Taniela Tupou (33 Tests), Izack Rodda (28 Tests), Matt Philip (17 Tests), Rob Leota (1 Test), Michael Hooper (c) (113 Tests), Rob Valetini (12 Tests), Nic White (41 Tests), Quade Cooper (72 Tests), Marika Koroibete (41 Tests), Samu Kerevi (36 Tests), Len Ikitau (7 Tests), Andrew Kellaway (7 Tests), Reece Hodge (51 Tests)

Replacements (16-23): Feleti Kaitu’u (2 Tests), Angus Bell (10 Tests), Tom Robertson (25 Tests), Darcy Swain (7 Tests), Pete Samu (13 Tests), Tate McDermott (10 Tests), James O’Connor (55 Tests), Jordan Petaia (12 Tests)

Sports news, results and expert commentary. Sign up for our Sport newsletter.

  • Stan Sport is the only place to watch every match of the The Rugby Championship continuing this Saturday with the All Blacks v South Africa followed by the Wallabies v Argentina – both matches streaming live, extended and ad-free on Stan Sport from 4.45pm AEST.

Most Viewed in Sport

Loading