Samu Kerevi will play his first Wallabies Test in more than two years as coach Dave Rennie provides a glimpse of what life may be like after the Giteau Law is changed.
Sources with knowledge of the Wallabies’ team selection told the Herald the centre will start at inside centre in the Wallabies’ clash with the All Blacks at Perth’s Optus Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The team is named on Friday.
It will be Kerevi’s first Wallabies Test since the 2019 World Cup, where he was an integral part of the Michael Cheika squad which was knocked out of the quarter-finals by England.
He has spent the last two years playing for Suntory Sungoliath on a lucrative deal but returned to Australia to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics in the Australian sevens squad.
After Hunter Paisami flagged that he would have to leave camp to be with his pregnant partner, Rennie and RA director of rugby Scott Johnson reached out to Kerevi and asked him to link up with the squad in Perth.
He has not missed a beat since joining the squad and will line up at No. 12 on Sunday at the same stadium in which he played arguably his best Test. Kerevi steamrollered Beauden Barrett to set up Nic White’s famous try in a record victory for Australia over the All Blacks.
Kerevi is tackled by Dominiko Waqaniburotu during Australia’s World Cup win over Fiji.Credit:Getty Images
Kerevi’s inclusion is a taste of what Wallabies fans can expect to see on the team sheet when the Giteau Law is changed as soon as this year’s spring tour.
Kerevi is the first overseas-based player to play for the Wallabies that does not meet the current Giteau Law criteria of 60 Tests and seven Super Rugby seasons.
RA are still investigating how to best change the law ahead of the spring tour, but the rule will be modified to allow Rennie to regularly call upon Kerevi and a handful of others, including Will Skelton, Rory Arnold and Sean McMahon.
Rennie opted for a second playmaker at No. 12 – Matt To’omua – in the last start loss to the All Blacks but Kerevi’s selection at inside centre indicates a different dynamic will be driven in midfield.
Len Ikitau is the most likely option to start at outside centre.
Up front, Feleti Kaitu’u has impressed Rennie enough to make a case for his potential Test debut at hooker.
He will likely be joined by Izack Rodda, who will replace Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in the 23-man squad.
Rennie faces tougher selection calls in the halves – where Nic White is applying pressure to the in-form Tate McDermott – and at tighthead prop, as the coaching staff grapple with how to best utilise the impact of Taniela Tupou.
Samu Kerevi training with the Wallabies in Perth.Credit:Andrew Phan/Wallabies
Noah Lolesio is expected to retain his place at five-eighth.
Meanwhile, former Wallabies fullback Dane Haylett-Petty, who remains sidelined due to prolonged concussion symptoms, believes Rennie’s side will use the All Blacks’ decision to delay the game by one week as motivation.
“I think so. But you have to be careful. You don’t want to be too emotional going into the game,” Haylett-Petty said when asked if the off-field feud will provide motivation.
“The Wallabies boys obviously know there is a lot to work on. They’re a young team and really building. Watching from the outside this season, it’s been exciting to see that growth. I thought in the French series, a lot more resilience, a bit more consistency.
“But without a doubt, there will be a little bit more to play for. Having been put off for a couple of weeks.”
The All Blacks have the Bledisloe Cup locked up for the 19th year but are striving for the first clean sweep against the Wallabies since 2018. They were also belted by Australia at Optus Stadium in their only clash at the new ground.
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