October 25, 2018 / 4:33 AM / 25 days ago

Naivalu returns, Folau at centre for Wallabies

TOKYO (Reuters) - Winger Sefa Naivalu will make his first test appearance since June last year while Israel Folau gets his first start at centre for Australia in their third Bledisloe Cup clash with New Zealand in Yokohama on Saturday.

Britain Rugby Union - England v Australia - 2016 Old Mutual Wealth Series - Twickenham Stadium, London, England - 3/12/16 Australia's Sefa Naivalu in action Action Images via Reuters / Henry Browne Livepic

Veteran prop Sekope Kepu is set to earn his 100th test cap after being named on the replacements bench.

The All Blacks have already retained the Cup, the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy, after winning the first two games of the series in Sydney and Auckland.

Folau had been tipped earlier in the week to get his first start wearing the Wallabies number 13 jersey when team mate Samu Kerevi, who is returning from a bicep injury, said he would not be fit enough to play a full match.

Kerevi has been named on the bench.

Reece Hodge, who had slotted into the position during the Rugby Championship, suffered an ankle injury last week and was ruled out of the Wallabies’ end-of-season tour.

Folau has played most of his international rugby at fullback while for the last three tests he has been on the wing, but has featured occasionally in the centres in Super Rugby.

With Folau moving into the midfield to partner Kurtley Beale, Naivalu was recalled to the right wing having not played for the Wallabies since facing Italy in Brisbane in June 2017.

In the forwards, coach Michael Cheika’s plans have been dealt a blow with bruising lock Adam Coleman ruled out due to groin soreness. Rob Simmons will partner Izack Rodda in the second row instead.

Loose forward Jack Dempsey has earned a recall to the matchday squad for the first time in a year after he suffered a hamstring surgery in the corresponding Bledisloe Cup fixture last October.

Team: 15-Dane Haylett-Petty, 14-Sefa Naivalu, 13-Israel Folau, 12-Kurtley Beale, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Bernard Foley, 9-Will Genia, 8-David Pocock, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-Ned Hanigan, 5-Rob Simmons, 4-Izack Rodda, 3-Allan Alaalatoa, 2-Folau Fainga’a 1-Scott Sio.

Replacement: 16-Tolu Latu, 17-Sekope Kepu, 18-Taniela Tupou, 19-Rory Arnold, 20-Jack Dempsey, 21-Nick Phipps, 22-Samu Kerevi, 23-Tom Banks.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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