The veteran Wallabies' three-year exile ended as Rennie made eight changes for the Bledisloe opener

The veteran Wallabies’ three-year exile ended as Rennie made eight changes for the Bledisloe opener

Just three months ago, Bernard Foley was cruising around Sydney Harbor inventing a new rugby concept on the water, with his international rugby career arguably dead in the water.

But on Thursday, Foley will become the fourth Australian to pull on the No.10 jersey for the Wallabies this year, with the 33-year-old taking his first test since 2019.

Foley’s recall was one of a whopping eight changes made by Dave Rennie in response to the deflationary loss to the Springboks in Sydney.

All-rounder Jed Holloway starts at the spot for the first time in his Test career, in place of Rory Arnold, who is unavailable for personal reasons, with Matt Philip in the second row.

Rob Leota returns as the starting blindside flanker, while Pete Samu gets his first start of the 2022 campaign at openside and Rob Valetini is at No.8.

Lalakai Foketi was brought in at inside center to replace Hunter Paisami, who also suffered concussion against the Springboks, while Andrew Kellaway was preferred at full-back ahead of Reec Hodge, who drops to the bench.

David Porecki starts on the bench with Folau Fainga’a on the bench

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Not since 2007 has a Wallabies coach been forced to name four different backs in one year, but Noah Loles’ concussion suffered during the 24-8 loss to the world champions saw Rennie call up Foley.

Due to a season-ending injury to Quade Cooper and concerns over the form of James O’Connor, Foley was recalled ahead of the two Tests against the Springboks.

The playmaker, who played 71 Tests before leaving for Japan, will be hoping to replicate the feats of Cooper, who has won all six Tests since completing his remarkable comeback from the international wilderness last year.

Like Cooper’s stunning return against the Springboks last year, Foley will step back into the role of playmaker despite not having played a minute of action since his Japanese side’s third-place play-off in May.

Bernard Foley of Australia applauds the fans as he leaves the field after the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group D match between Australia and Wales at Tokyo Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

While eager to return to the Wallabies at the start of the year, he made public appearances during the 2-1 series loss to England on Australian shores.

At the same time, he talked about Aqua Rugby – a new way to play the game on water, which also involved fellow Test stars Drew Mitchell and Ma’a Nonu.

Foley was not required for The Rugby Championship but was overseas in the United States of America before Cooper went down in Mendoza and O’Connor struggled a week later in San Juan.

During a wild ride in Argentina, Rennie responded to Foley and invited him to camp.

They now face rugby’s biggest test as they attempt to end the Wallabies’ two-decade drought in the Bledisloe Cup against the All Blacks.

Foley has won just two of 15 Tests against the All Blacks, drawing in his second match against the rugby powerhouse in 2014 at the Olympic Stadium.

Foketi, former Waratahs playmaker Foley, his old NSW teammate, also comes in at inside to replace Hunter Paisami, who also suffered concussion against the Springboks.

Help-back Kellaway gets the call to recall to the starting side, with Hodge dropping back to the bench to provide cover for the fit-again Kurtley Beale.

There are also changes ahead.

Fraser McReight’s tough night against Siya Kolisi, who dominated the lineup, means picking up the back row.

Samu has been considered a super sub in the past, a role he developed and played in under Scott Robertson at the Crusaders, but his greater presence has elevated him to a starting spot ahead of McReight.

The departure of Rory Arnold opened up a spot in the second row, while Porecki’s passing accuracy saw him return to the front row.

Taniela Tupou is unavailable after the massive prop tweaked his calf in the warm-up during the Springboks loss.

While the injury is not believed to be serious, Wallabies management are taking a cautious approach to his return after he also injured his second calf towards the end of this year’s Super Rugby campaign. It means Pone Fa’amausili is coming to the bench.

The Wallabies are preparing for the task ahead against the All Blacks.

Although their stunning 53-3 win over Argentina went some way to allaying fears after a shock loss a week earlier, Ian Foster’s All Blacks are far from the finished product.

The victory masked some of the concerns that still linger within the three-time world champions, who have won just three of the seven Tests to start 2022.

They won’t be helped by the absence of Ardie Save, but the return of Brodie Retallick off the bench against Los Pumas will go a long way.

Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete said winning the physical battle, an area they broke down against the Springboks in Sydney, was the key to taking a 1-0 lead across the ditch for their return match a week later.

“It’s just more brutality,” Koroibete said when asked about the key to beating New Zealand.

“Just a bench competition. Everyone in the park must bring physical fitness, master the equipment and test their hustle.

“Bring the aggression on Thursday. That’s what they don’t want. That’s what the South Africans and Argies (Argentina) did to them when they won. That’s what we have to bring.”

Australia (15-1): Andrew Kellaway; Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete; Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon; Rob Valentine, Pete Samu, Rob Leota; Matt Philip, Jed Holloway; Allan Alaalatoa, David Porecki, James Slipper (capt) Subs: Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio, Pone Faamausili, Darcy Swain, Fraser McReight, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia

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