Wright to lead the Wallabies against Wales after Schmidt overhauled Australia’s squad

SYDNEY (AP) – Liam Wright will lead the Wallabies against Wales on Saturday after Joe Schmidt completely overhauled Australia’s squad for his first Test.

Wright has captained the Queensland Reds in Super Rugby since 2020, but has only played five Tests for Australia.

That is of little concern to Schmidt, who retained four of the starting XV from Australia’s last Test in a poor World Cup performance last year.

Schmidt had a successful spell as Ireland coach from 2013-19. After returning to New Zealand for a while, he Went to Australia instead of a Eddie Jones in January and is intent on putting his own stamp on the Wallabies.

He picked lock Jeremy Williams and center Josh Fluke for their Test debuts and picked hooker Matt Fassler in the starting XV for the first time.

Williams will partner Lugan Salakaya-Lotto in the second row, who returns from England with Northampton for his first test since 2021.

Five of the eight reserves are uncapped, including backup flyhalf Tom Linnock, son of Wallabies great Michael Linnock. Another, substitute hooker Billy Pollard, has played in one Test.

Wright will become Australia’s seventh captain in two seasons against Wales on Saturday.

Prop Allan Alalatova and scrumhalf Tate McDermott, selected on the bench, have led the Wallabies in that time.

Alaladova lost his starting spot to the recalled Danila Dubou, and Jake Gordon started 9th ahead of McDermott.

Tom Wright, who missed out on selection for last year’s World Cup squad, returns at fullback and Andrew Kellaway moves to the wing. Filippo Dougnu was recalled to start on the wing again.

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New Zealander Schmidt and Wales coach Warren Gatland have a long history as rival coaches in this two-Test series.

While Schmidt is determined to start his tenure with a win, Gatland needs to end a seven-Test losing streak. Defeated by world champions South Africa At Twickenham last month.

Wales thrashed Australia 40-6 in the group stages of last year’s World Cup in France, but have not beaten the Wallabies on Australian soil in 11 Tests since 1969.

Gatland released a starting XV that had a mix of halves with a total of three Test caps between them: scrumhalf Ellis Bevan coming off his Test debut and Ben Thomas at no. Starts at 10.

Josh Hathaway was selected on the back of a win on his Test debut, the only uncapped player in the 23-man squad.

Captain Dewey will start at Lake Hooker and Aaron Wainwright will be at No.8 in his 50th Test, making him the most experienced player in the starting forward pack.

„We’ve had a good week of preparation here in Sydney and are excited to get out on the field on Saturday,” Gatland said. “This first Test will be a big challenge for us.

„Test matches are all about fine margins and we know we have to be precise, stick to our discipline and be in the fight for the full 80 minutes.”

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Australia: Tom Wright, Andrew Kellaway, Josh Fluke, Hunter Baisamy, Filippo Daugunu, Noah Lolesio, Jake Gordon; Rob Valletini, Fraser McGrath, Liam Wright (capt), Lucan Salakia-Lotto, Jeremy Williams, Danila Dubo, Matt Fessler, James Slipper. Subs: Billy Pollard, Isaac Kylia, Alan Alalatova, Angus Blyth, Charlie Caley, Tate McDermott, Tom Linnock, Dylan Peech.

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Wales: Liam Williams, Josh Hathaway, Owen Watkin, Mason Grady, Rio Dyer, Ben Thomas, Ellis Bevan; Aaron Wainwright, Tommy Refel, Dane Plumtree, Daffyd Jenkins, Christ Ciunza, Archie Griffin, Dewey Lake, Gareth Thomas. Subs: Evan Lloyd, Kemsley Mathias, Harry O’Connor, Corey Hill, James Botham, Kieran Hardy, Sam Costello, Nick Tompkins.

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AP Rugby: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby

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