Hunter Paisami was restored to the Wallabies side on Thursday, replacing explosive centre Samu Kerevi, in one of four changes to the starting lineup for their first match against Japan since 2017.
Paisami, who is 23 years old, started Australia’s first five Tests of the year but was replaced by Japan-based Kerevi, who established his spot with several outstanding performances.
However, he suffered an ankle injury in their final Rugby Championship match against Argentina and has yet to recuperate, allowing Paisami to play in Oita on Saturday.
“While Samu’s inability to play in Japan is regrettable, Hunter started the first five Tests this year previous to the birth of his daughter and is itching for another chance,” stated coach Dave Rennie.
He was one of four changes to the team that beat Los Pumas 32-17 earlier this month to extend their winning record to four games, including two wins against world champions South Africa.
Matt Philip has been recalled to the second row, while Rob Leota, a Melbourne Rebels teammate, has been recalled to the blindside flanker position.
Tom Wright starts ahead of Jordan Petaia in place of winger Marika Koroibete, who withdrew from the game and Australia’s subsequent tour of the United Kingdom due to family obligations.
For the fourth consecutive game, the front row is unchanged, with James Slipper, ACT Brumbies teammate Folau Fainga’a, and the imposing Taniela Tupou joining James Slipper, who will beat Will Genia and Sekope Kepu by playing his 111th Test.
In the second row, Philip will reunite with Western Force recruit Izack Rodda, while in the loose forwards, Leota will be joined by skipper Michael Hooper and No.8 Rob Valetini.
Quade Cooper, who is also based in Japan, kept his No.10 shirt and will once again act as a playmaker with scrum-half Nic White, with Paisami and Len Ikitau forming the midfield.
Andrew Kellaway, who scored a hat-trick in their last game against Argentina, and big-kicking Reece Hodge join Wright in the back three, with debutant hooker Connal McInerney chosen on the bench.
“We have a great deal of respect for the Brave Blossoms, who are currently up there with the finest teams in the world,” Rennie added. “We’ll have to give it our all.”
AUSTRALIA (15-1): AUSTRALIA (15-1): AUSTRALIA (15-
Quade Cooper, Nic White; Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper (captain), Rob Leota; Matt Philip, Izack Rodda; Taniela Tupou, Folau Fainga’a, James Slipper; Reece Hodge; Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Andrew Kellaway; Quade Cooper, Nic White; Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper (captain), Rob Leota
Connal McInerney, Angus Bell, Alan Alaalatoa, Darcy Swain, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor, Jordan Petaia, Connal McInerney, Angus Bell, Alan Alaalatoa, Darcy Swain, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor, Jordan Petaia