Fullback, hooker spots up for grabs for France tests: Wallabies coach


FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - European Champions Cup - Pool 2 - Sale Sharks v Glasgow Warriors - AJ Bell Stadium, Salford, Britain - January 18, 2020 Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie Action Images via Reuters/Molly Darlington

(Reuters) - Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said a player can "make a statement" in the fullback position in the weeks leading up to their July tests against France and tipped winger Jordan Petaia as a potential candidate for the number 15 jersey.

Utility back Reece Hodge was ruled out of the remainder of the Melbourne Rebels' Super Rugby campaign with a knee injury and is in a race to be fit for the visit of France.

Tom Banks is the only specialist fullback named in Rennie's 40-player squad that took part in a three-day camp in Sydney this week.

Rennie said Petaia played his "best game this year" in Queensland Reds' 24-22 victory over ACT Brumbies last weekend when he scored a try as the Reds secured a home final in Super Rugby AU.

"I think fullback is probably a thin position for us," Rennie told Australian media. "That's a position someone could make a statement in over the next nine weeks.

"He (Petaia) probably played his best footy on the wing/fullback. He's a player that can play any of those (positions).

"He's been working hard on his kicking game and it was good to see that on the weekend in a pretty pivotal moment."

Rennie also praised flyhalf James O'Connor, whose late penalty led the Reds to the win.

"He's been sensational in all departments," Rennie said. "He has real clarity on his game."

The role of hooker is another area of concern for the Wallabies.

Rennie brought four uncapped hookers into the camp and left out Folau Fainga’a, Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Jordan Uelese, though he left the door open for them to fight their way back into his plans.

"Hooker is wide open," Rennie said. "But we have picked the guys who we think are playing the best footy.

"It doesn’t mean the guys we used last year are out of the mix but there is a little bit of a signal there – we’re looking with an eye to the future."

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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