Australia hand Test lifeline to axed skipper

Former captain Grace Hamilton returns at No.8 in a revamped Wallaroos team to host New Zealand at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday (12.45pm kickoff AEST).

Australia coach Jay Tregonning has made seven changes to the starting line-up in a reaction to the 52-5 thumping in Christchurch that kept the Laurie O’Reilly Cup in the clutches of the Black Ferns.

Hamilton, who was left out of the matchday 23 for the first Test, gets another opportunity after Grace Kemp suffered a head knock at training.

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Brumbies center Siokapesi Palu has been named to make her debut at inside center while Bienne Terita, a member of Australia’s world champion sevens squad, has been named to start on the wing.

Another ex-skipper, Liz Patu, returns at loosehead prop in place of the injured Bree-Anna Cheatham, while Adiana Talakai and Adelaide product Eva Karpani have been elevated to the starting line-up.

“We’ve made some changes this week off the back of last week’s result, as well as some minor injuries within the squad,” Tregonning said.

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“We’re lucky to have built significant depth within the group over the last few months, and the players that have come into the starting line-up this week are deserving of their opportunity.

“We have two new players coming into the backline this week in Siokapesi and Biel, and we believe they both have a lot to offer the team.

“We’ve had another solid week of training, off the back of an in depth review following last weekend’s match, and the team are really looking forward to playing in Adelaide for the first time ever this weekend.

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“This is a historic game, it’s not often we get to spread the word of rugby to South Australia, so the team is hoping for a solid turnout from the locals at one of Australia’s most iconic sporting grounds on Saturday.”

New Zealand coach Wayne Smith has also rung the changes with Grace Steinmetz named to make her Test debut at fullback.

“Grace is very good defensively, she has good footwork and is good at getting that final pass away,” Smith said.

“Clearly we know she can play on the wing but we want to see how she goes at fullback.

“I felt we played well (in Christchurch) – we saw an improvement in our forward play and our defense but our skill execution was poor.

“We are wanting to play a fast, attacking game on top of the opposition which requires a specific skillset, so it’s an area that requires more effort.”

Teenaged prop Santo Taumata is also in line for a Test debut off the bench.

“For a 19-year-old she is phenomenal,” Smith said.

“Santo is immensely strong, she’s a good scrumager and is very quick off the ground. We might just see the birth of a star.”

WALLAROOS (15-1): Pauline Pilae-Rasambale, Bienne Terita, Georgina Friedrichs, Siokapesi Palu, Ivania Wong, Arabella McKenzie, Iliseva Batibasaga, Grace Hamilton, Shannon Parry (c), Emily Chancellor, Michaela Leonard, Atasi Lafai, Eva Karpani, Adiana Talakai, Liz Patu

Reservations: Ashley Marsters, Emily Robinson, Bridie O’Gorman, Kaitlan Leaney, Piper Duck, Layne Morgan, Trilleen Pomare, Lori Cramer

BLACK FERNS (15-1): Grace Steinmetz, Ruby Tui, Sylvia Brunt, Chelsea Semple, Ayesha Leti-I’iga, Ruahei Demant (co-c), Ariana Bayler, Kennedy Simon (co-c), Kendra Reynolds, Alana Bremner, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Amy Rule, Luka Connor, Pip Love

Reservations: Natalie Delamare, Krystal Murray, Santo Taumata, Chelsea Bremner, Charmaine McMenamin, Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, Renee Holmes, Hazel Tubic

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