Rugby-Australia beef up front row for Wales test

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - 2018 Bledisloe Cup Rugby Championship - Australia v New Zealand - Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand - August 25, 2018 - Australia's Allan Alaalatoa runs with the ball. REUTERS/Ross Setford

(Reuters) - Australia have been able to call on front-row reinforcements Taniela Tupou and Allan Alaalatoa, and could hand a debut to centre Lalakai Foketi in their final autumn international against Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Prop Tupou will start and Alaalatoa is on the bench after both missed last weekend's 32-15 defeat to England, in which London Irish's Ollie Hoskins received an unexpected debut. He drops out of the match-day squad altogether.

Tupou will be alongside hooker Tolu Latu, who is making his first start since 2019, and James Slipper, who returns to the loosehead side of the scrum and will captain the team in the absence of the injured Michael Hooper.

"It's great to have Taniela and Allan back in the mix this week, they bring a level of experience that will be key for us against a tough Welsh team," coach Dave Rennie said in a Rugby Australia press release.

"Slips is hugely respected in our mob and a strong contributor to our leadership group. He was the obvious choice to lead us in the absence of Hoops."

Pete Samu comes in at openside flanker in place of Hooper, with Rob Leota and number eight Rob Valetini making up the rest of the back row. Rory Arnold and Izack Rodda continue as the lock pairing.

The only change in the backline is wing Filipo Daugunu, who plays his first test since breaking his arm against France in July.

Foketi will be the 950th international for Australia if he makes it off the bench.

"Lalakai has been with the squad all year and worked extremely hard to earn his first international opportunity," Rennie said.

Australia are aiming to avoid a third straight defeat in the autumn series after they opened with a 15-13 loss to Scotland at Murrayfield.

"We've been disappointed with our performances in the last two tests and we'll be looking to ensure we finish the year on a positive note," Rennie said.

Team: 15-Kurtley Beale, 14-Andrew Kellaway, 13-Len Ikitau, 12-Hunter Paisami, 11-Filipo Daugunu, 10-James O’Connor, 9-Nic White, 8-Rob Valetini, 7-Pete Samu, 6-Rob Leota, 5-Izack Rodda, 4-Rory Arnold, 3-Taniela Tupou, 2-Tolu Latu, 1-James Slipper (captain)

Replacements: 16-Folau Fainga'a, 17-Angus Bell, 18-Allan Alaalatoa, 19-Will Skelton, 20-Lachlan Swinton, 21-Tate McDermott, 22-Lalakai Foketi, 23-Tom Wright.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Shrivathsa Sridhar)

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