Bernard Foley gets nod for Wallabies in Bledisloe Cup clash with All Blacks

Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley will play his first Test in three years against the All Blacks in Melbourne on Thursday after Noah Lolesio was ruled out of the Bledisloe Cup clash by concussion.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster, meanwhile, has made injury-forced changes to his forward pack but otherwise kept faith in a winning team as the defending champions look for back-to-back Rugby Championship wins.

Foley, a 33-year-old veteran of 71 Tests who has been playing in Japan since the last World Cup, will be Australia’s fourth starting flyhalf in eight Tests this season after Quade Cooper, James O’Connor and Lolesio.

Lolesio and centre Hunter Paisami both suffered head knocks in the 24-8 loss to South Africa in Sydney in the last round of the championship, which left Australia with three wins in seven matches this year.

Lalakai Foketi will win his third cap at inside centre in place of Paisami in another of the eight changes to the starting lineup that Rennie put out for the two Tests against the Springboks.

In other tweaks to the backline, Andrew Kellaway will play at fullback and Jake Gordon has earned his first start at scrumhalf of the season in place of Nic White.

Rory Arnold is unavailable for both Thursday’s match and the return game in Auckland next week as he awaits the birth of his first child, so Jed Holloway shifts from the back row to lock alongside Matt Phillip.

Rob Leota and Pete Samu move up from the bench to start as blindside and openside flankers respectively with Fraser McReight, who struggled against the Springboks at the breakdown, named among the replacements.

Taniela Tupou has not recovered from a calf injury sustained in the warm-up before Australia’s last outing so Pone Fa’amausili will provide back up for tighthead prop Allan Alaalatoa.

Another change among the front row forwards sees Dave Porecki starting at hooker in place of Folau Fainga’a, who appears to have paid the price for his sometimes inaccurate lineout throwing.

For New Zealand, Hoskins Sotutu has replaced No 8 Ardie Savea after the powerhouse loose forward was excused from the Test to stay at home for the birth of his third child.

Scott Barrett has shifted from lock to replace blindside flanker Shannon Frizell, who was ruled out of Melbourne with a ribs injury from the 53-3 demolition of Argentina in Hamilton.

Brodie Retallick has been promoted to start alongside fellow veteran lock Sam Whitelock, with loose forward Akira Ioane coming onto the bench in the only change to the reserves. The backline remains unchanged.

All four teams can still win the tightest Rugby Championship for many years but Australia will be out of the running if they cannot at least take a losing bonus point at Marvel Stadium in the penultimate round.

Any defeat would also end Australian hopes of wresting the Bledisloe Cup out of New Zealand hands for the first time in two decades. The All Blacks, who have held the Bledisloe Cup trophy since 2003, will retain it for another year with victory in Melbourne.

Australia: 15-Andrew Kellaway, 14-Tom Wright, 13-Len Ikitau, 12-Lalakai Foketi, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Bernard Foley, 9-Jake Gordon, 8-Rob Valetini, 7-Pete Samu, 6-Rob Leota, 5-Matt Philip, 4-Jed Holloway, 3-Allan Alaalatoa, 2-Dave Porecki, 1-James Slipper (captain). Replacements: 16-Folau Fainga’a, 17-Scott Sio, 18-Pone Fa’amausili, 19-Darcy Swain, 20-Fraser McReight, 21-Nic White, 22-Reece Hodge, 23-Jordan Petaia.

New Zealand: 15-Jordie Barrett, 14-Will Jordan, 13-Rieko Ioane, 12-David Havili, 11-Caleb Clarke, 10-Richie Mo’unga, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Hoskins Sotutu, 7-Sam Cane (captain), 6-Scott Barrett, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Tyrel Lomax, 2-Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1-Ethan de Groot. Replacements: 16-Dane Coles, 17-George Bower, 18-Fletcher Newell, 19-Akira Ioane, 20-Dalton Papali’i, 21-Finlay Christie, 22-Beauden Barrett, 23-Quinn Tupaea.