SYDNEY (AFP) – Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is banking on versatile back Reece Hodge to help his team seal a bruising series against England tomorrow, with former rugby league star Suliasi Vunivalu shaping up as a secret weapon.
With Australia hit hard by injuries in the brutal opening Tests at Perth and Brisbane, he has been forced into four changes for the sold-out decider at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Hodge was handed a lifeline at fullback after injuries to Tom Banks, Jordan Petaia and Andrew Kellaway, having failed to make the initial 36-man squad for the series.
Rennie has faith in the veteran, whose big boot could prove an asset.
“He’s come straight in (to camp) and slotted in really well, he’s got a big kicking game and we think that will be advantageous as well,” Rennie said.
“And he’ll also fill holes during the game, he’s one guy that we know based on injuries or needs he can slot in somewhere even if he hasn’t trained there during all week.”
England coach Eddie Jones also made changes, with seasoned scrum-half Danny Care recalled and Ollie Chessum and Lewis Ludlam handed starts among the forwards.
Rennie brought in Harry Wilson at blindside flanker to complement a backrow that includes captain Michael Hooper and number eight Rob Valetini, with Cadeyrn Neville out injured.
Test centurion James Slipper replaces Angus Bell at loosehead prop and will be joined by David Porecki at hooker with Taniela Tupou at tighthead.
Nick Frost earns his second cap alongside stalwart Matt Philip in the second row, with Rob Leota dropping to the bench.
“We know we’re a much better team than how we played in Brisbane and we’ve had a good week of preparation which will allow us to put in a performance that makes Australians proud,” said Rennie.