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Sport

Hodge to face All Blacks at flyhalf as Rennie rings the changes

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Reece Hodge will play his first 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.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby Championship - Australia vs South Africa - Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa - September 29, 2018 - Australia's Reece Hodge challenges Willie le Roux. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

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, 42-test veteran Hodge was named in the side in place of Noah Lolesio, who had a poor game on debut in Sydney.

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.

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.

Tom Banks was named at full back after last week giving way to the experienced Dane Haylett-Petty, who drops out of the 23 along with centre Irae Simone.

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.

“It’s going to be a really special night for James ... and I know the team will be doing everything they can to make sure it’s a memorable result,” Rennie said in a statement.

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

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Shri Navaratnam

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