Reece Hodge gets nod at centre in Wallabies team for Bledisloe Cup opener

Reece Hodge will line up at centre for the Wallabies against the All Blacks on Saturday. Picture: JOE ALLISON/GETTY IMAGES

SYDNEY, 17 AUGUST 2018 (SMH) – Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has picked a new-look front row for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup opener, with hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and loose-head prop Tom Robertson getting the nod for the all-important clash at ANZ Stadium.

Meanwhile, Reece Hodge has been confirmed as Australia’s No.13 and young gun Jack Maddocks is in line to make his debut off the bench after a meteoric rise through the ranks in recent years.

Australia have a settled side heading into the biggest home match of the year, with captain Michael Hooper set to join David Pocock in a potent back row that also features Lukhan Tui at No 6.

Prop Scott Sio has been ruled out of the match altogether with a shoulder complaint, giving Robertson a chance to shine in the No 1 jersey in what will be just his third start in international rugby.

Despite not having a whole lot of game-time under his belt, Polota-Nau will be the Wallabies’ starting rake, with Tolu Latu also edging out Brandon Paenga-Amosa for a bench spot.

There were no selection surprises in the back line, with Hodge set to play outside-centre for the first time in his Test career in what will be a major challenge for the 23-year-old up against the All Blacks midfield of Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue.

Cheika has picked a 5-3 split on the bench, with Nick Phipps, returning Wallaby Matt Toomua and potential debutant Maddocks the spare backs.

Wallabies: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Kurtley Beale, Marika Koroibete, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, David Pocock, Michael Hooper (c), Lukhan Tui, Adam Coleman, Izack Rodda, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson. Reserves: Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Pete Samu, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Jack Maddocks

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