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New Wallabies skipper as injuries hit

Australia Wallabies Portrait Session
James Slipper will captain the Wallabies against Wales. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images for ARU

Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt says his new-look team learned “a bit about ourselves” in last week’s win over Wales as he named a largely unchanged starting line-up, albeit with a new captain, for Saturday’s second clash in Melbourne which looms as another step in the journey back to being a rugby power.

A shoulder injury to newly minted captain Liam Wright has forced him out, with veteran prop James Slipper set to captain the Wallabies for the 15th time with four changes made to Schmidt’s bench including another potential debutant.

Slipper, the most capped Wallaby in the team with 135 Tests, double the next highest, another former captain, Allan Alaalatoa, is part of an unchanged front row, with Schmidt also sticking with the same second-row and five-man backline.

The injury to Wright, who Schmidt said should be available for next weekend’s clash with Georgia, opened the door for the man who replaced him, Charlie Cale, to make his first Wallabies start as the only change to the run-on side

“We’ve got confidence in the squad, it’s good for young Charlie to get a start,” he said.

“It’s one of the things we want to demonstrate, that we are squad orientated group. No-one can play the game by themselves, or play the game without the help of others.

“I’ve learned that the players are determined, they want to be as good as they can be. But I’ve also had enough experiences to know it’s still going to take time before they really know each other to have trust in those micro-seconds you have to make decisions.

“Every team is a work in progress, but sometimes you are just a little bit further back in that spectrum.”

Australia v Wales
James Slipper will take over as captain of the Wallabies against Wales. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

Wright’s injury forced the only change to the starting 15, but experienced scrum-half Nic White has been named the bench among mass changes, with his Western Force teammate Ben Donaldson, picked for his first international of 2024.

Josh Nasser is in line to become the 13th son of a Wallaby to wear the gold jersey, following the path of his father and Wallaby No.685, Brendan, named as the replacement hooker as one of another two changes to the reserves.

Buoyed by the performance of his players in his first match in charge last weekend, Schmidt said he expected improvement again as he stuck with his main men.

“We found out a bit about ourselves last week and are looking forward to learning a bit more on Saturday night,” he said.

“We’ve worked hard again this week in Melbourne and will be going out to earn the support of those in the stands and those at home on Saturday night.”

Isaac Kailea, the latest in a growing list of born and bred Victorians to play for the Wallabies, has kept his place on the bench after making his Wallabies debut in Sydney.

Earlier this week, Kailea declared there could be a “whole stand” of family an friends at AAMI Park to watch him.

Wallabies v Wales

AAMI Park, in Melbourne

Saturday 13 July, 7:45pm AEST

1. James Slipper (c)

2. Matt Faessler

3. Taniela Tupou

4. Jeremy Williams

5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto

6. Rob Valetini

7. Fraser McReight

8. Charlie Cale

9. Jake Gordon

10. Noah Lolesio

11. Filipo Daugunu

12. Hunter Paisami

13. Josh Flook

14. Andrew Kellaway

15. Tom Wright

Substitutes

16. Josh Nasser

17. Isaac Kailea

18. Allan Alaalatoa

19. Angus Blyth

20. Langi Gleeson

21. Nic White

22. Ben Donaldson

23. Dylan Pietsch