Wallabies team named to play Wales in Autumn Nations Series

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has shown enormous faith in Ben Donaldson by naming the young five-eighth to start in Sunday’s season-ending Test against Wales in Cardiff.

Donaldson’s Wallabies debut turned to heartbreak in a historic loss to Italy this monthwhen he missed the conversion that would have won the match in Florence.

The Waratahs point guard was only given five minutes off the bench against Italy but Rennie preferred him at No.10 to Noah Lolesio at the Principality Stadium.

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Bernard Foley is unavailable after being released to his club commitments along with Will Skelton.

“We want to learn a bit more about him,” Rennie said of Donaldson.

“He only got five minutes against Italy. Initially, we were thinking of getting him on the field early and we scored late, Noah kicks the conversion from the sideline and we’re down by three. When we’re down by six with five to go, we threw him out there to see what he can do.

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“He’s trained really well, has got a good skill-set and he’s developing the voice and the ability to boss people around. We need to see plenty of that and we’ve got familiarity with (NSW teammate) Jake (Gordon) playing on his inside and a fair bit of experience with (Reece) Hodge on his outside.

“We want to find out about Ben and his versatility helps in that he can play 15, certainly quick enough to play back there. We’ve got Noah with a fair bit of experience to come on late.”

It is a makeshift team like the Wallabies continue to endure an unbelievable list of injuries.

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Michael Hooper, Taniela Tupou, Rob Valetini, Hunter Paisami, Dave Porecki, Andrew Kellaway and Nic White were all ruled out following the loss to Ireland in Dublin.

No.8 Langi Gleeson will join NSW teammate Donaldson in making his first start for Australia while Rebels prop Sam Talakai is in line for a debut at 31 years old after being named on the bench.

The versatile Hodge will partner Len Ikitau in midfield.

Ikitau backed Rennie’s methods despite the Wallabies having won just four of their 13 Tests this year and dropping to eighth in the world rankings.

“It’s more on the players there,” Ikitau said.

“Dave’s got an awesome system and the way he wants to play, and for us it’s going out there and executing it.

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“I just don’t think we’ve been doing that the last couple of weeks, especially against Italy. It would be nice to finish off our last game with a win and go forward from there.”

Meanwhile, Wales reloaded with experience after the humbling loss to Georgia by recalling Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau, Leigh Halfpenny and Gareth Anscombe.

Winger Rio Dyer, who made a try-scoring debut against New Zealand this month, was picked ahead of Josh Adams, and Joe Hawkins will make his debut at inside centre.

Owen Watkin was ruled out with a knee injury as Wales made six changes in total.

The reserves were stiffened with hooker Ryan Elias, prop Tomas Francis, and backs Kieran Hardy, Rhys Priestland and Adams.

Faletau will play his 100th Test.

“The whole squad is extremely disappointed with last week’s performance,” under-fire Wales coach Wayne Pivac said.

“It’s not the result that anybody wanted. It’s not the result that anyone expected. We know what went wrong and what is required to get the result this weekend.

“Some players have come back that were not involved last week. Certainly, it’s a side we’ve selected to get a result which we’re desperately seeking.” – with AP

WALLABIES (15-1): Tom Wright, Jordan Petaia, Len Ikitau, Reece Hodge, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Ben Donaldson, Jake Gordon, Langi Gleeson, Fraser McReight, Jed Holloway, Cadeyrn Neville, Nick Frost, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga’a, James Slipper (c )

Reserves: Lachlan Lonergan, Tom Robertson, Sam Talakai, Ned Hanigan, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, Noah Lolesio, Jock Campbell

WALES (15-1): Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, George North, Joe Hawkins, Rio Dyer, Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams, Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric (c), Jac Morgan, Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Beard, Dillon Lewis, Ken Owens, Gareth Thomas

Reserves: Ryan Elias, Rhodri Jones, Tomas Francis, Ben Carter, Josh Macleod, Kieran Hardy, Rhys Priestland, Josh Adams

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