Cheika hands out four Wallabies debuts

Cheika hands out four Wallabies debuts

Michael Cheika says handing out four debut Wallabies caps for the first Test against England is proof of the trust he has in his players as the Australian side prepares to take the next step in its evolution.

Lock Rory Arnold, centre Samu Kerevi and winger Dane Haylett-Petty will start against the Red Rose at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, and halfback Nick Frisby has been named on the bench.

Two of those new faces will give the World Cup runners-up an immediate makeover.

Brumbies giant Arnold – at 208cm – will become the tallest man to play for Australia when he lines up alongside 60-Test veteran Rob Simmons in the second row.

Kerevi, after starring in a poor Queensland Reds team this season, has won the No.12 jersey and will team up with Tevita Kuridrani to form one of the biggest centre pairings the Wallabies have fielded.

Haylett-Petty has been rewarded for his strong Super Rugby season at fullback for the Western Force, getting a wing spot in the injury-enforced absence of Joe Tomane and Henry Speight, and beating out the likes of Taqele Naiyaravoro and squad bolter Reece Hodge.

“The opportunity to have four new caps shows how much we believe in our players,” Cheika told reporters on Thursday.

“Four new caps in one game is a fair few.

“They’ve put a great amount of effort over these couple of weeks and I can see they’re stinging for the game.”

Cheika says the selection of Kerevi at inside centre, ahead of competitors Christian Lealiifano and Karmichael Hunt, will add another string to the Wallabies’ bow.

“I’ve been really impressed by Kerevi,” he said.

“He’s been convincing me at training, the little things, the combination and the relationships between those players and their communication.

“It changes up the way we look from a footy perspective, and that’s something we need to do as well as a team – continue to evolve.”

Lealiifano spent almost the entire lead-up to the Test in Canberra awaiting the birth of his first child, Jeremih, who arrived on Tuesday.

He joined the team on Wednesday and will serve on the bench as back-up for five-eighth Bernard Foley, with Cheika resisting the urge to move Israel Folau from fullback to the centres, where he has been in scintillating form for the NSW Waratahs.

Hunt misses out after failing to overcome a groin strain, and Cheika said he might leave the Wallabies camp for further treatment.

Cheika has also retained the speedy, ball-pilfering back-row combination of David Pocock, Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy, with Pocock at No.8 to accommodate Hooper at openside flanker and Sean McMahon as the reserve.

Greg Holmes also edged out Sekope Kepu to join captain Stephen Moore and Scott Sio in the front row.

Wallabies team: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Samu Kerevi, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Rory Arnold, Greg Holmes, Stephen Moore (capt), Scott Sio. Res: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, James Horwill, Dean Mumm, Sean McMahon, Nick Frisby, Christian Lealiifano.

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