SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa and loose forward Caleb Timu will make their test debuts against Ireland in Brisbane on Saturday after being named in Michael Cheika’s side to face the Six Nations champions on Thursday.
Former Sydney garbage collector Paenga-Amosa and rugby league convert Timu could be joined in winning their first caps by Melbourne-born flanker Pete Samu, who was named on the bench for the Lang Park clash.
Samu was freed to join the squad by New Zealand Rugby, to whom he is still contracted, on Sunday and if he gets on the pitch would take to 30 the number of players Cheika has blooded in the test arena since the 2015 World Cup.
David Pocock returns for his first test match since the end of 2016 after taking last year off on a sabbatical, rejoining captain Michael Hooper in the ‘twin opensides’ back row formation with Timu adding some heft at number eight.
Paenga-Amosa gets his chance after Jordan Uelese suffered a serious knee injury last weekend and takes the Queensland Reds quota in the pack to three after Izack Rodda got the nod to replace the suspended Rory Arnold in the second row.
In the backline, Will Genia starts at scrumhalf despite not having played for a month because of injury, while Samu Kerevi replaces childhood friend Tevita Kuridrani at outside centre in spite of his sometimes suspect defence in the number 13 shirt.
Cheika will be looking to outside backs Israel Folau, Marika Koroibete and Dane Haylett-Petty to return any Irish kicks with interest, while a 6-2 selection in favour of the forwards on the bench would indicate he is preparing his players for a battle.
Reece Hodge’s ability to play across the back line allows Cheika such flexibility and he also brings his long-range place-kicking prowess to the team should points be required off the tee late in what is expected to be a tight contest.
Hard-running prop Taniela Tupou, nicknamed ‘Tongan Thor’ in his schooldays, should also get a chance to make an impact off the bench after making his debut against Scotland in last year’s November internationals.
Team: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Marika Koroibete, 13-Samu Kerevi, 12-Kurtley Beale, 11-Dane Haylett-Petty, 10-Bernard Foley, 9-Will Genia, 8-Caleb Timu, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-David Pocock, 5-Adam Coleman, 4-Izack Rodda, 3-Sekope Kepu, 2-Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1-Scott Sio
Replacements: 16-Tolu Latu, 17-Allan Alaalatoa, 18-Taniela Tupou, 19-Rob Simmons, 20-Lukhan Tui, 21-Pete Samu, 22-Nick Phipps, 23-Reece Hodge
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly