Veteran fly-half Bernard Foley will start a Wallabies Test for the first time since the 2019 World Cup after getting the nod Tuesday among eight changes to face the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship this week.
The 33-year-old Foley, who plays in Japan, was handed another chance with Noah Lolesio ruled out with concussion, Quade Cooper sidelined with a season-ending injury and James O’Connor axed.
Foley will don the No.10 shirt for his 72nd Test at Melbourne’s Docklands Stadium on Thursday — which doubles as the first Bledisloe Cup match — despite not seeing action since his Kubota Spears side last played in May.
“It’s great to have Bernard’s experience and he brings plenty of voice and passion for the gold jersey,” coach Dave Rennie said.
“New Zealand showed their class in a massive win over Argentina last week and will come to Melbourne full of confidence.”
The final two rounds of matches will determine the fate of the Rugby Championship, with just one point separating the table-topping All Blacks from Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
Foley was among eight changes Rennie made to the starting side after their deflating 28-8 loss to South Africa 10 days ago and will partner Jake Gordon in the halves in place of Nic White.
Versatile Jed Holloway starts at lock for the first time in his Test career, in place of Rory Arnold, who is unavailable for personal reasons, partnering Matt Philip in the second row.
Rob Leota returns as starting blindside flanker while Pete Samu earns his first start of the 2022 campaign at openside and Rob Valetini is at No.8.
Lalakai Foketi was brought in at inside centre to replace Hunter Paisami, who also suffered concussion against the Springboks, while Andrew Kellaway was preferred at fullback to Reece Hodge, who drops to the bench.
David Porecki starts at hooker with Folau Fainga’a benched.
Australia (15-1): Andrew Kellaway; Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete; Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon; Rob Valetini, Pete Samu, Rob Leota; Matt Philip, Jed Holloway; Allan Alaalatoa, David Porecki, James Slipper (capt) Replacements: Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio, Pone Fa’amausili, Darcy Swain, Fraser McReight, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia