MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia coach Dave Rennie has shuffled his front row forwards but left the starting side largely intact as the Wallabies seek a Tri-Nations victory over high-flying Argentina and back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Rennie has brought in experienced prop Scott Sio to replace injured loosehead James Slipper while promoting tighthead Taniela Tupou from the bench in place of Allan Alaalatoa for Saturday’s clash in Newcastle.
Ned Hanigan, who replaces the suspended Lachie Swinton at blindside flanker, is the only other change to the starting 15 that celebrated a 24-22 win over the All Blacks in Brisbane this month, Rennie’s first victory in charge of the Wallabies.
Pre-tournament, the hosts might have pencilled in a win from their first encounter with Argentina, given their lack of matches in a pandemic-blighted year.
However, the South Americans tore up the script with a stunning 25-15 win over the All Blacks last week and now loom as a huge threat to the Wallabies’ title hopes.
“We need to take another step up now,” Rennie told reporters on Thursday.
“It’s a chance for us to show that we are developing and getting better and a win would put us in a pretty strong position.”
Sio was omitted from Brisbane but beats out young prop Angus Bell, who remains on the bench after a solid test debut at Lang Park.
“We felt he lacked impact when he was coming into the game and we wanted more out of him,” Rennie said of dropping Sio.
“We got the reaction we expected from Scott, his preparation this week has been excellent.”
With James O’Connor still sidelined, utility back Reece Hodge has been rewarded with another start at flyhalf in an unchanged backline following his key role in the Wallabies’ win in Brisbane.
Rennie has made a couple of changes on the bench, with Rob Valetini included as cover for the second and back rows, and Jake Gordon recalled as backup scrumhalf for Nic White.
Team: 15-Tom Banks, 14-Tom Wright, 13-Jordan Petaia, 12-Hunter Paisami, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Reece Hodge, 9-Nic White, 8-Harry Wilson, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-Ned Hanigan, 5-Matt Philip, 4-Rob Simmons, 3-Taniela Tupou, 2-Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1-Scott Sio
Replacements: 16-Folau Fainga’a, 17-Angus Bell, 18-Allan Alaalatoa, 19-Rob Valetini, 20-Liam Wright, 21-Jake Gordon, 22-Noah Lolesio, 23-Filipo Daugunu
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel