Rugby Championship: Wallabies weighing up full-back options ahead of Springboks Test

David Skippers

Australia could have a new full-back when they take on South Africa in Adelaide on August 27 after Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie admitted that he is looking for consistency in the position.

The Wallabies have already used four players in the shirt this year, with Tom Banks, Jordan Petaia and Reece Hodge wearing the number 15 jersey in the three Tests against England while Tom Wright filled in during the two recent Tests with the Pumas.

Although Wright played well in the opening Test in Mendoza, he struggled in the second Rugby Championship encounter in San Juan, with his problems under the high ball playing a big part in the home side clinching a record 48-17 win over Australia.

New options

That has led to Andrew Kellaway returning to Rennie‘s 35-man squad alongside the uncapped Jock Campbell and the duo are expected to contest for the number 15 jersey ahead of the first of two showdowns with the world champion Springboks.

“We have used a few back there,” Rennie told Rugby Australia’s official website. “Tom Wright’s done a really good job for us at 15. He probably made a few errors last week that he’s disappointed about but we’re starting to create genuine depth there.

“We’re confident ‘Kells’ (Andrew Kellaway) can play back there as well. You’ve seen ‘Hodgey’ (Reece Hodge) play there and Jordie had about two minutes before getting himself knocked out in the second Test against England.

“It wasn’t that long ago we had real question marks around the depth of that position but we do have options and we really want someone to nail it.

“(Campbell) an excellent player, that’s been a great thing about having him in the camp – we’ve got to learn more intimately about him. He’s a very, very good footballer and very smart, a bit of a Conrad Smith-type of player in the back three. Just a really good rugby brain and very efficient skill set.”

Rennie confirmed that Petaia remains an option to play at 15. The 22-year-old started the second Test against England but was forced off the field due to concussion after just 10 minutes.

He still has issues with communication and Rennie confirmed that it was a reason why Wright got the nod to start at full-back in both Tests against the Pumas.

“It’s a definite possibility,” he said.

“The thing with Tom Wright, and why when we brought Jordie back we left him on the wing, Tom’s communication is excellent, his ability to organise people in front of him and he’s got a very good skill set and he’s very quick, and leg speed at 15 is a real asset for us.

“Obviously Jordie has a similar skill set and we want to see him own that back area vocally and have the ability to boss others around and organise people in front of him. He’s made really good shifts in that area and he’s made big shifts around his work rate off the ball so he’s a genuine option.”

Veteran utility back Kurtley Beale will also return to the Wallabies camp next week but he is still recovering from a hamstring injury sustained during his stint with Racing 92.

Rennie admitted that they are keen to bounce back after that humiliating defeat to Argentina in San Juan but he expects a tough challenge from the Springboks, who will be out for revenge after suffering consecutive losses to the Wallabies on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane during last year’s Rugby Championship.

Embarrassing defeat

“It was a frustrating day and the boys were pretty embarrassed,” he added.

“We talk a lot about respect being earned daily and the character that we showed the week before under difficult circumstances was massive for us. To not back that up was massively disappointing.

“We know it’s massive. You look at the Springbok side, it’s very, very strong, They’re almost at full strength and they’ll be grumpy after their second Test lost to the All Blacks.

“We’re well aware of what’s coming, based on last year’s couple of wins, that’ll only create a bit more of an edge for the Springboks.

“We’re going to have to be at our best, no doubt, and it’s a massive series for us.”

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