Wallabies team to play England: Former NRL star Suliasi Vunivalu misses selection

Suliasi Vunivalu is the only former NRL star in the Wallabies to miss selection as Australia look to break 12-year-old England hoodoo.

Three former NRL stars were picked for the Wallabies this weekend but Suliasi Vunivalu is not one of them.

The Premiership winner Melbourne Storm was overlooked in favor of Tom Wright for the vacant wing spot, while Izaia Perese came on the bench amid a backline injury crisis.

With former Storm and Tigers star Marika Koroibete retaining his wing spot from the first Test win over England, former Manly Sea Eagles aviator Wright and former Bronco Perese, the Wallabies’ attack is heavily represented for the second Test at Suncorp Stadium.

Vunivalu was tipped to make his Wallabies debut this weekend after Tom Banks and Andrew Kellaway were injured.

However, the selectors rewarded Wright for a strong super rugby season while Perese can cover wings and centre.

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As expected, pioneering prop Taniela Tupou returns straight to the starting XI after a lengthy layoff through injury, replacing Allan Alaalatoa who suffered a concussion last week.

Jordan Petaia is making his first full-back start for Australia after playing on both wings and off centre.

Lock Nick Frost will debut off the bench after Darcy Swain’s two-week suspension for his headbutt on rival Jonny Hill in Perth.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said: “It’s great to have Taniela back this week and he’s really looking forward to donning the gold jersey in his hometown.

“Likewise, Jordy is looking forward to the opportunity at full-back and of course it will be a proud night for Nick and his family for his Test debut.

“We will proudly wear First Nations jerseys and sing the national anthem in the Yugambeh language on Saturday night as we pay our respects to Uncle Lloyd McDermott and the First Nations of this country.”

WALLABIES: 15 Jordan Petaia 14 Tom Wright 13 Hunter Paisami 12 Samu Kerevi 11 Marika Koroibete 10 Noah Lolesio 9 Nic White 8 Rob Valetini 7 Michael Hooper (Captain) 6 Rob Leota 5 Cadeyrn Neville 4 Matt Philip 3. Taniela Tupou 2. Dave Porecki 1. Angus Bell.

RESERVES: 16. Folau Fainga’a 17. Scott Sio 18. James Slipper 19. Nick Frost 20. Pete Samu 21. Jake Gordon 22. James O’Connor 23. Izaia Perese.

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The Wallabies were forced to rearrange their backline for the second Test against England after winger Andrew Kellaway was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Jordan Petaia will now start at full-back, while Brumbies flyer Tom Wright, Waratahs star Izaia Perese and Dual Code star Suliasi Vunivalu will be battling for the vacant wing spot.

Prop Taniela Tupou is expected to return straight to the starting XI at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium after a lengthy layoff through injury, replacing Allan Alaalatoa who fell out with concussion in the first Test win in Perth.

After Tom Banks broke his arm in the first half of the 30-28 win at Optus Stadium, Kellaway jumped from wing to full-back while Petaia came from bench to wing, scoring Australia’s first try and generally performing well.

While he has played for Queensland at full-back, Petaia has never played for Australia in the No 15 shirt.

The 22-year-old will have started in four different Wallabies backline positions after this Saturday; both wings, wing center and full-back, equaling Reece Hodge and Adam Ashley-Cooper in terms of versatility.

After lock Darcy Swain was suspended for two weeks for his headbutt on rival Jonny Hill, Matt Philip will join the starting XI as chief lineout caller – a role he assumed after the red card last weekend.

That leaves Brumbies rookie Nick Frost with the potential to make his debut off the bench.

Quade Cooper will not feature this weekend after straining his calf just before kick-off last week, so Noah Lolesio will keep the No 10 shirt with James O’Connor the obvious back-up.

Wallabies defense coach Matt Taylor says their reaction to the multiple injuries and Swain’s dismissal at Perth showed the team is heading in the right direction.

“The squad has been building for a number of years, one of the great things about that friendly was our ability to adapt to all the changes and things that are going against us,” said Taylor.

“I think that’s what makes a good team.

“I don’t know when Australia last beat England twice in a row, I’d say it’s been a while considering we haven’t beaten them for a while since the weekend, so we’re really focused and really motivated have performed well at Suncorp.”

After breaking an eight-game losing streak against England last weekend, Australia will look to seal the streak with back-to-back wins against their old opponents for the first time since 2009/10.

The Wallabies defeated England on their 2009 spring tour in Twickenham and the following June in Perth.

Since then, England have won 12 of 15 Tests between the two nations.

“They’re all really good players, they were in a World Cup final two years ago,” said Taylor.

“I know from my time in Scotland how powerful and [what a] Team full of good players they have.”

But Taylor says head coach Dave Rennie’s quiet demeanor seeped through the roster.

“Dave is a good man to work with and a great man to hang out with and have a beer or a garn,” Taylor said.

“He’s very level-headed, he doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low, he takes things as they come.

“So I think the osmosis that he’s very quiet is probably encouraged by the group.

“He is also very good with the clarity within the team. We have a lot of walking around and talking and scenarios that we throw at the players and they have to adapt.

“The fruits of that may have come out over the last few years over the weekend where we could adjust and adjust and move on without panic.”

Originally released as Wallabies team to play England: Former NRL star Suliasi Vunivalu misses selection Wallabies team to play England: Former NRL star Suliasi Vunivalu misses selection

Nate Jones

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