SAINT-ETIENNE, France — James Slipper has been rushed straight back into the front-row for the Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup clash with Fiji, the veteran switching to tighthead to replace the injured Taniela Tupou.
In what will be just the third Test start for Slipper in the No. 3 jersey, the Brumbies front-rower will play his first match since Bledisloe II. With Tupou picking up a hamstring injury at training this week, Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has turned to experience over youth with Slipper to become just the third Australian to play at four Rugby World Cups.
Slipper has been given the nod ahead of rookie Queenslander Zane Nonggorr, while there are two further changes to the run-on side that defeated Georgia 35-15 in Paris last weekend.
Nick Frost has come into the starting side ahead of Richie Arnold to partner skipper Will Skelton in the second-row, the Brumbies lock’s extra mobility sure to be handy against a Fijian side that will look to throw the ball around.
Meanwhile in the backs, scrum-half Nic White replaces Tate McDermott at No. 9 after the vice-captain suffered a concussion against Georgia last weekend.
There are two further changes to the bench with Jordan Uelese replacing Matt Faessler as the back-up hooker, while Issak Fines-Leleiwasa will deputise for White at scrum-half.
Jones has otherwise stuck solid with the team that recorded a bonus-point win first up in France, with Ben Donaldson retained at fullback after his man-of-the-match performance against the Georgians.
“Fiji is the most important match of our Rugby World Cup campaign.”
“It’s another big opportunity for our young side to keep getting better and we’ll be ready on Sunday.”
Fiji opened their World Cup campaign with a heart-breaking 32-26 loss to Wales on Sunday night. But had it not been for a late Semi Radradra knock-on, it might well have been the Fijians coming away with the victory in Bordeaux.
Australia and Fiji have not played each other since the last World Cup in Japan, where the Wallabies triumphed 39-21 in Sapporo but not before Fiji had held a nine-point lead early in the second half.
The Wallabies will have all but secured a quarterfinal berth if they win on Sunday, while Fiji need a victory to keep alive their hopes of advancing to the knockout stage.
While the Wallabies have not put a timeframe on Tupou’s return, they are hopeful that he will return in time for the tournament’s knockout stage. The Rebels-bound prop was one of Australia’s best against Georgia, scrummaging strongly while also laying on a try for Donaldson.
AUSTRALIA: Ben Donaldson, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Jordan Petaia, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Carter Gordon, Nic White, Rob Valetini, Fraser McReight, Tom Hooper, Will Skelton, Nick Frost, James Slipper, Dave Porecki, Angus Bell.
Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Blake Shoupp, Zane Nonggorr, Richie Arnold, Rob Leota, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Lalaki Foketi, Suliasi Vunivalu.