Despite pulling off the most unlikely victory in the first Test against France, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has made just one change to his side.
Taniela Tupou has been given another chance to prove he can be as effective at the get-go than at the death, with the gigantic prop promoted by Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.
Tupou is the only change to the matchday 23 to take on France in Melbourne in the second Test on Tuesday from the one that scraped home 23-21 on Wednesday, with Rennie dropping Allan Alaalatoa to the bench.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Rennie said he picked what he thought was the best available squad for the opening Test and that has not changed – despite acknowledging the shortcomings of their great escape.
“We lacked accuracy, we gave up soft points early and we think there’s more in this group and we want to give them another crack,” Rennie said.
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“We thought it was the right group to pick last time. We fell short of our expectation because of a lack of accuracy and it meant we couldn’t get continuity. We would go two phases, turn it over.
“We’ve had a good few days training and we’re confident we’ll be sharper this time.”
The decision to keep the same 23 will please many who believe Michael Cheika’s Wallabies suffered because of the continual chopping and changing.
Some might question why Tate McDermott, the Queensland Reds livewire, is not starting ahead of Jake Gordon, who struggled, but Rennie knows the importance of having impact off the bench. After all, it was the impact from the “finishers” that saw them record the come-from-behind win.
A last chance for some?
Not a chance, with Rennie knowing this team is in its infancy.
“I don’t know about that,” he responded to the last-rights suggestion. “There were some excellent performers amongst that group.
“A lack of accuracy and continuity affected our ability to put the French under constant pressure. We conceded a couple of early tried, but we didn’t look like conceding other than that.
“There’s no doubt there were some tight calls around selection,; there is competition for places and that’s important to us.”
In particular, halfback Jake Gordon and fullback Tom Banks will be keen to show what they are capable of after poor opening Tests.
But Rennie refused to call one of his players out and said the team had shown real “character” and learned from the shortcomings of last year, which included three draws, by stealing the game at the death.
“We had to a few games last year where we had a chance to steal it right at the death and didn’t so it was nice to get one,” he said.
It will be Tupou’s seventh start, having come off the bench in 19 of his 25 Tests to date.
Tupou has the potential to become the world’s most destructive front-rower, but as yet has not been able to transfer his match-changing cameos off the bench to when he starts.
The Reds prop, who regularly plays 80 minutes, was outstanding when he started against the All Blacks in Wellington last year, but with the exception of the Bledisloe I performance has struggled when handed the No.3 jersey, including in Bledisloe II when he was targeted by Sam Cane’s men and made a number of errors.
But his promotion comes off the back of his match-turning feats, where he won two scrum penalties, a huge linebreak and was the man applying pressure at the death when the French made a meal of their final lineout and turned over the ball to allow the Wallabies to steal the win.
“Taniela made a real impact on both sides of the ball when he came on in at Suncorp Stadium and we’ll be looking for him to do the same from the get-go in Melbourne,” Rennie said.
“We’ve worked hard and we’re well conditioned. A lack of accuracy in Brisbane denied us the opportunity to make the most of that, but we showed plenty of character to stay in the fight until the final whistle.
“We need to start fast, be more clinical and turn pressure into points at AAMI Park on Tuesday night.”
Elsewhere, Rennie has given the rest of the team time to build on the combinations.
The Wallabies’ halves struggled together in their first outing, while a number of players including Jake Gordon, Noah Lolesio and fullback Tom Banks made uncharacteristic mistakes.
But the faith of the boss should hold the team in good stead, particularly as it was the first time Gordon and Lolesio had played together.
Wallabies 15-1: Tom Banks, Tom Wright, Hunter Paisami, Matt To’omua, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Jake Gordon, Harry Wilson, Michael Hooper (c), Rob Valetini, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Matt Philip, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper
Reserves: Lachlan Lonergan, Angus Bell, Allan Alaalatoa, Darcy Swain, Isi Naisarani, Tate McDermott, Lek Ikitau, Andrew Kellaway
Originally published as Rennie gives wobbly Wallabies a second chance