International Rugby

Robertson handed surprise start, Hodge gets nod for Bledisloe opener

Australia prop Tom Robertson will start for the Wallabies in their Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup opener against the All Blacks following an injury to Scott Sio.

Sio was initially cleared for Saturday’s showdown with New Zealand in Sydney at the start of the week but he has been unable to overcome a shoulder problem.

It means Waratahs prop Robertson – who came off the bench against Ireland in June – will make just his third Test start following Australia’s team announcement on Thursday.

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has handed Reece Hodge the number 13 jersey for the blockbuster at ANZ Stadium, the venue where Australia shipped 54 points to world champions New Zealand 12 months ago.

Hodge moves into the outside centre position following injuries to Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi as the Aussies aim to claim the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.

Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau will play his first Test of 2018, with Tolu Latu joining Allan Alaalatoa on the bench, while rookie Jack Maddocks is in line to debut.

Australia – who finished second to New Zealand during last year’s Rugby Championship – have also been boosted by Michael Hooper’s return.

After almost two months out with a hamstring injury and new five-year contract with Rugby Australia, captain Hooper is set to make his first appearance since June.


Australia: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Kurtley Beale, Marika Koroibete, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Tom Robertson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman, Lukhan Tui, Michael Hooper, David Pocock.

Repacements: Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Pete Samu, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Jack Maddocks. News wire is powered by opta

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