Bledisloe Cup: Wallabies make changes for Auckland clash

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has pulled a selection shock for the second Bledisloe Cup clash in Auckland, handing NSW Waratahs forward Ned Hanigan his first Test start since 2018.

Hanigan is joined in the starting side by Reds hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa, the duo replacing Brumbies Pete Samu and Folau Fainga'a respectively, who have both been relegated from the matchday 23 altogether.

Fainga'a has paid the price for the Wallabies' lineout woes in Wellington last weekend, while Rennie said Samu had been told about some of the "shifts" they needed to see in his game after a quiet outing at Sky Stadium.

"We've had a big focus on earning the right to play and the selection was based on performance as opposed to the outcome of last weekend's game," Rennie told reporters via Zoom on Friday.

"We've got a pretty big squad here and there is a lot of competition for places and the changes we've made, the guys who are coming in deserve their cracks. So we've prepared really well and we're ready to go."

Few people would have had Hanigan pegged for a start in Auckland with the back-rower having spent most of his time at lock for the Waratahs during Super Rugby AU.

But Rennie said he had been impressed with Hanigan's efforts throughout his time in camp, the coach surprised with the influence the Waratahs forward had asserted on the squad.

"Ned's been really impressive, he's trained superbly in the four weeks that we've been together and has led really well around lineout; he's done a lot of work around the All Blacks and the opposition stuff leading in to last week's game," Rennie said.

"But he's a good athlete, he's got a good skill set and provides a point of difference for us at No. 6, and allows us to move Harry back to No. 8.

"And Brandon, obviously the lineout didn't function that well last week and Folau's a casualty of that. He's certainly a very strong scrummager as well, Brandon, and a good athlete, so we think he's the right man for the job this weekend."

Paenga-Amosa leapfrogged Rebels rake Jordan Uelese for the chance to replace Fainga'a, the Reds front-rower winning the right to start despite the lineout being a weakness of the Reds during Super Rugby AU.

Rennie believes the Wallabies have more jumping options than what the Reds did, and he backed Paenga-Amosa to take the improvements he'd made inside the Australian camp out onto Coopers Catch Stadium on Sunday.

"I think our lineout and our options, we've probably got little more depth [than the Reds] in and around that. Some of the work around his throwing over the last period, we've had someone in, remotely, doing a bit of work with all our hookers around their throwing and we're starting to see some benefits of that."

The Wallabies' other two changes come on the bench, where Reds skipper Liam Wright and teammate Jordan Petaia have been included at the expense of Rob Valetini and Brumbies rookie Noah Lolesio, who didn't get on the park last week in Wellington.

While a softly-softly approach is required with Petaia, Rennie said Hunter Paisami also deserved the chance for another start after a fine first outing in Wellington.

"He hasn't played an an enormous amount of footy in the last period, when you look at it he's had a number of niggles that have stopped him playing continuously," Rennie said of Petaia.

"But we also want to reward Hunter, we thought he was really strong last week and Jordie gives us real flexibility on the bench."

AUSTRALIA: Tom Banks, Filipo Daugunu, Hunter Paisami, Matt To'omua, Marika Koroibete, James O'Connor, Nic White; Harry Wilson, Michael Hooper, Ned Hanigan, Matt Philip, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper.

Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Liam Wright, Jake Gordon, Jordan Petaia, Reece Hodge.