Rugby

Matt To’omua’s Wallabies team vs Wales: Weakness Lynagh must fix before Test debut, new role for Wright

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Former Wallabies flyhalf Matt To’omua has gone for a Nic White-Noah Lolesio halves combination in his selection for the opening Tests of the year against Wales.

To’omua explained his decision to bypass Carter Gordon and Tom Lynagh in arriving at Lolesio, with Ben Donaldson off the bench, on The Roar Rugby Podcast.

To’omua said he would start White and have Queensland Reds No.9 Tate McDermott off the bench, with Jake Gordon the starter should White not be available.

“I think Whitey’s kicking and passing and composure is the best,” To’omua said of the battle for the No.9 jersey. “Tate will eventually start, maybe by the Lions, but for me, against Wales, you’ve got to be doing the fundamentals and Whitey still is the best at the fundamentals.”

He added Jake Gordon could still have a big role to play this year despite wanting to pack up and head overseas.

“Jake Gordon and Harry Wilson are our most underrated players in Australian rugby. They’re Test match players, and in a lot of other teams, you’re starting them.

Jake Gordon. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

“Joe Schmidt’s probably going to go conservative early days, but I would 100% get it if Jake Gordon is pushed in there eventually.”

To’omua said Australia had some good options at No.10 but “Noah’s been the best.

“He’s been the best in the best team as well, and I think that’s crucial for winning games. He’s got a little bit of a link with Whitey as well.”

Tom Lynagh has been pushed in some quarters after a strong campaign with the Reds but To’omua believes he’s not quite ready with a weakness he needs to resolve.

“He’s not [ready] in my view. I think this will be too early. Defensively, I think teams target him,” said To’omua.

“You could hide him in the tracks as teams have done with a lot of the 10s. You see Richie Mo’unga in the tracks, defending at 13 every now and then.”

He’s also opted for Donaldson over Gordon in the 23.

“I hate this because Carter’s a mate. I’ve gone with Donaldson as well on the bench, for a few reasons,” said To’omua.

“He can cover 10 and 15 better than Carter can. He can also goal kick better. If Noah’s having an off night, Ben Donaldson comes on, and he can slot a few.

“And I think he’s played better than Carter this year, quite frankly.”

Noah Lolesio. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

To’omua meanwhile he would like to see Tom Wright promoted to a vice-captaincy role behind his pick for captain, Allan Alaalatoa.

“I feel that he’s benefited from being a leader this year, in my view, and I would actually go with him as my vice captain,” said To’omua.

“I’d be going Allan, and then I’d be going Fraser [McReight] and Tom Wright as my vice captains. I think Tom Wright benefits when he’s a leader, when there’s responsibility. There’s a little bit on it. He thrives under that.”

Completing To’omua’s back line are Andrew Kellaway and Corey Toole on the wings with Hunter Paisami at No.12 and Len Ikitau at No.13. He said he’d opt for 6-2 bench split with McDermott and Donaldson.

Up front he’s opted for the front row of James Slipper, Matt Faessler and Alaalatoa, with Alex Hodgman, Jordan Uelese and Taniela Tupou off the bench.

Allan Alaalatoa. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

He’s also opted to bring home Will Skelton from La Rochelle, although it seems unlikely that Joe Schmidt will look outside Super Rugby for his team for the Wales two-Test series.

In that case To’omua said he’d partner Darcy Swain with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto from the start with Nick Frost as back up.

“I feel Test matches are won up front. The Welsh will maul, they will box kick, and we need someone who can stop that maul,” he said.

“Darcy’s probably doing the best at the moment. I think Josh Canham’s looking pretty decent at maul defence as well, but I think he’s a year or two away.

“Maul defence will be huge. And if Skelton’s not picked, I think Lukhan’s your starter for me.

“He doesn’t come through the bench. I feel like he’s a guy who needs to play, you know, 60 to 80 minutes.

“But I’d still be picking Will overseas. I wouldn’t care what the rules are!”

To’omua’s back row would see a debut for Reds ace Seru Uru at No. 6, with McReight at No.7 and Rob Valetini at No.8

“Seru is a Test match six,” he said. “I’ve said it before, he reminds me very much of Scott Fardy. He can play in the lock, but plays six as well. I think in a line-out option, once again, set-piece being very important, particularly against Wales, defensive line-out, he’ll be important there.”

Matt To’omua’s Wallabies to face Wales

James Slipper, Matt Faessler, Allan Alaalatoa, Darcy Swain, Will Skelton, Seru Uru, Fraser McReight, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Andrew Kellaway, Hunter Paisami, Len Ikitau, Corey Toole, Tom Wright.

Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Alex Hodgman, Taniela Tupou, Nick Frost, Rob Leota, Charlie Cale, Tate McDermott, Ben Donaldson.

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