Wallabies: Waratahs duo set to make Test debuts against Italy

David Skippers
Mark Nawaqanitawase and Ben Donaldson Wallabies debutants v Italy ANS 2022.jpg

Mark Nawaqanitawase and Ben Donaldson are set to make their Test debuts for Australia after being named in Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie’s squad for Saturday’s clash with Italy in Florence.

Rennie has made 11 changes, after suffering a narrow 30-29 loss to France last week, with Nawaqanitawase included in the run-on side on the right wing, while fellow Waratahs player Donaldson has been named on the bench as Noah Lolesio’s back-up at fly-half.

Nawaqanitawase is joined in the back three by Jock Campbell and Tom Wright, who line up at full-back and on the left wing respectively, while Hunter Paisami and Len Ikitau are the starting centres with Jake Gordon sharing half-back duties with Lolesio.

New captain for Wallabies

In the forwards, Brumbies tighthead prop Allan Alaalatoa will become the Wallabies‘ 85th captain, as regular skipper James Slipper is rested. Joining Alaalatoa in the front-row is Folau Fainga’a and Matt Gibbon who will pack down at hooker and loosehead prop respectively.

“He’s hugely respected, for anyone that knows Allan well he’s a hell of a man,” Rennie said of Alaalatoa.

“It’s a very proud moment for him and his family. There’s a lot of excitement when we named the team, obviously a couple of new boys but the biggest roar was for Allan when he was named as skipper.

“He’s certainly got massive respect, his attention to detail and work ethic. He captains the Brumbies and he’s our best option. What happens long-term who knows but he could definitely skipper Australia long-term.”

Meanwhile, behemoth lock Will Skelton is set to make his first start after playing off the bench against France last week and packs down alongside Nick Frost in the engine room.

They are joined in the pack by Ned Hanigan, Fraser McReight and Pete Samu, who are the starting flankers and number eight.

Lachlan Lonergan (hooker) comes onto the bench for the first time on the end-of-year tour, while fellow Brumby Darcy Swain returns from suspension as the back-up lock.

Meanwhile, Jordan Petaia has recovered from a hamstring injury and joins Donaldson and Tate McDermott as the backline replacements.

Not underestimating the Azzurri

“We’re conscious this is a good Italian side,” Rennie added.

“I know (Italian coach) Kieran Crowley well and they’ve made really good shifts in the last 12 months. We’ve picked a side that we think is strong and fresh.

“There’s no plan to throw guys into the game early, we’ll judge it as we see it.”

Australia: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Nick Frost, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (c), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Matt Gibbon
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Langi Gleeson, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Ben Donaldson, 23 Jordan Petaia

Date: Saturday, November 12
Venue: Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Adam Leal (England)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)