Rugby-Wallabies coach Rennie puts onus on youth to win decider against France


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

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia coach Dave Rennie has gambled on youth to give the Wallabies a strong start in Saturday's series-decider against France, promoting Tate McDermott, Len Ikitau and Darcy Swain among eight changes to his starting 15.

The 22-year-old McDermott replaces Jake Gordon as starting scrumhalf in the matchday squad released on Thursday, and he will form a callow halves combination with Noah Lolesio in the continued absence of injured playmaker James O'Connor.

Ikitau was named at centre for his second test after debuting off the bench in the 28-26 loss to France in Melbourne on Tuesday. Hunter Paisami moves forward to inside centre, with Matt Toomua benched.

Swain, who also came off the bench in Melbourne, starts at lock with the retained Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.

Australia edged France 23-21 in the series-opener at Lang Park and were the more dynamic team in Melbourne but they were thrashed at the breakdown in both matches and turned over the ball in the rucks too readily.

Rennie will hope for more potency from a rejigged back row, with Isi Naisarani replacing the dropped Harry Wilson at number eight and abrasive loose forward Lachie Swinton at blindside flanker in his second test.

"We always knew with the scheduling of the series against a tough French side, that it would require a full squad effort and we’re going to see that on Saturday night," Rennie said in a media release.

"We were disappointed with the result in Melbourne and we’ll be out to rectify that with more accuracy and composure in key moments."

With all to play for at Lang Park, Rennie will bank on experience to get the Wallabies over the line, with Toomua joined on the bench by utility back Reece Hodge, who makes his first appearance after coming back from a long-term knee injury.

Hooker Jordan Uelese also earns his first selection of the series on the bench, replacing Lachlan Lonergan after the young hooker struggled with his lineout throws in the tense second half in Melbourne.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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