Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has put his full faith in Tolu Latu, handing the rake his first Test start since 2016 for Australia’s clash with Wales.
Latu has had just one other Test start, against France on the 2016 Spring Tour, but Cheika has backed in the Waratahs rake to lead the way in Cardiff, even with the return of Tatafu Polota-Nau to the fold.
The 25-year-old has had game-changing impacts in his recent Test inclusions but has also put the team a man down twice in the past two Tests from avoidable incidents.
Tatafu Polota-Nau will come off the bench in his first Test since Australia’s loss to Argentina on the Gold Coast, with Folau Fainga’a sitting out the Wales game after starting the past four Wallabies games.
“I just think it’s an opportunity to let him (Fainga’a) take…a bit of a rebuilding week for him, give an opportunity to Tolu, who’s had his ups and downs over the last few weeks but I’m a big believer in Tolu and giving him a chance at starting, which he hasn’t had this year I don’t think.
“Also with Polota-Nau coming back gives us a different sort of look.”
Comeback duo Jack Dempsey and Samu Kerevi showed enough against the All Blacks to earn starts in Cardiff.
Kerevi will start at 13 for the Test, shifting Israel Folau back to the wing after his outside centre stint in Japan.
Marika Koroibete has been dropped from the 23 altogether with the backline reshuffle, with Cheika preferring Sefa Naivalu and Jack Maddocks as wing options.
Cheika said Dempsey’s thirst to play showed in his cameo against the All Blacks in Japan, a Test return that came close to a year
“Dempsey was quite abrasive when he came on in the last game,” he said.
“He didn’t play a lot of time but it’s a good opportunity for him now, with three big games left in the year to have a starting role and re-acquaint himself with Test footy.
“Didn’t quite think he’d be playing in the last game but he showed, when he came to training, he was up for it.
“He was showing good form at training which is all I’ve really seen him in, those couple of weeks, and I thought it was worthwhile giving him an opportunity last week and I think he showed that he’s ready to take another step forward.”
Adam Coleman has slotted straight back into the starting team, recovered from a groin injury that forced him out of the third Bledisloe, teaming up with Izack Rodda for the clash.
Cheika said Coleman had fully shaken off that issue but his next step would be ensuring he stays ahead of the logjam of second rowers around the team now.
“Simmons had a really good game last week I think and the challengers are coming,” he said.
“Adam’s done really well for us since he’s come into the team really form a couple of years ago off not a lot of Super Rugby history.
“He started working his way into the team, he’s become a mainstay inside of the team and now I think that’s setting around for other players in that position to lift their game to try to challenge those two players who have a locking position.”
England-based back Matt To’omua comes onto the pine for the Wales clash, which is the first in the international window, with Jack Maddocks the final change on the bench, replacing Tom Banks.
Adam Ashley-Cooper has missed out on a Test return after rejoining the squad for the first time since 2016.
The Wallabies will wear poppies on their sleeves in the Test to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day and Rugby Australia will lay a wreath at Villers-Bretonneaux.