(Corrects first paragraph to make clear this is not Hodge’s first test at flyhalf)
SYDNEY, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Reece Hodge will play only his second test for Australia at flyhalf against New Zealand in Brisbane this weekend after coach Dave Rennie on Thursday made six changes to his starting side for the second Tri-Nations test.
With James O’Connor still struggling with a knee injury that ruled him out of last weekend’s record 43-5 loss to the All Blacks, Hodge was named in the side in place of Noah Lolesio, who drops to the bench after a poor game on debut in Sydney.
“He’s got a big kicking game, we know he can carry and he tackles well in that channel,” Rennie said of the versatile 42-test veteran.
“He just gives us a bit of experience in those inside backs. We think Noah off the bench this week will be good for him. He’s learnt a bit ... and we expect him to respond off the bench.”
An injury to lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto also forced a change in the second row with Rob Simmons set to earn his 104th cap alongside Matt Philip at Lang Park.
While Hodge and Simmons will bring an injection of experience to the team, Rennie continued to blood youngsters with right winger Tom Wright and blindside flanker Lachlan Swinton handed their international debuts.
Fleet-footed rugby league convert Wright replaces Filipo Daugunu outside a new centre partnership made up of Queensland youngsters Jordan Petaia and Hunter Paisami.
Ned Hanigan dropped to the bench, where he will cover the second and back rows, allowing his fellow New South Wales loose forward Swinton a taste of test rugby.
“He’s got a real edge to his game, which we’ve really liked,” Rennie said.
“What we’re looking for from him is physical.”
Tom Banks was named at full back after last week giving way to the experienced Dane Haylett-Petty, who took a knock in Sydney and was not available for selection.
Angus Bell could also make his test debut off the bench after being named as back-up to loosehead prop James Slipper, who will become the 13th Australian to win 100 test caps.
Australia drew their first Bledisloe Cup test against New Zealand last month before heavy defeats in Auckland and Sydney cost them the series.
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-Lachlan Swinton, 5-Matt Philip, 4-Rob Simmons, 3-Allan Alaalatoa, 2-Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1-James Slipper
Replacements: 16-Folau Fainga’a, 17-Angus Bell, 18-Taniela Tupou, 19-Ned Hanigan, 20-Liam Wright, 21-Tate McDermott, 22-Noah Lolesio, 23-Filipo Daugunu (Editing by Shri Navaratnam/Peter Rutherford)
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