O'Connor deputises for Cooper as Wallabies and Pumas make four changes apiece

Australia and Argentina meet again in San Juan on Saturday.

James O'Connor speaking with Quade Cooper before Australia's 16 July test with England.
James O'Connor speaking with Quade Cooper before Australia's 16 July test with England.
Image: Steven Markham

VERSATILE VETERAN BACK James O’Connor will make his first start this year for Australia against Argentina after coach Dave Rennie made four changes to his team named on Thursday.

O’Connor, 32, comes in at out-half for fellow veteran Quade Cooper who suffered a suspected ruptured Achilles tendon in last week’s 41-26 victory in Mendoza in their Rugby Championship opener.

Saturday’s second match in Argentina takes place in San Juan.

There is also a return for Rory Arnold to partner Darcy Swain at lock in place of Matt Philip while Taniela Tupou gets the nod at tighthead ahead of Allan Alaalatoa.

The final change brings in Lalakai Foketi for his first start in place of Hunter Paisami at inside centre.

Prop Pone Fa’amausili is set to make his debut off the bench.

“After a tough, physical game last week it’s great to be able to call on the experience of guys like James and Rory and also see the team’s excitement for La (Foketi) and Irae (Simone) who get to wear the Wallaby gold again on Saturday,” said Rennie in announcing the team.

“It’s going to be a proud occasion for Pone (Fa’amausili) and his family and it’s a testament to him for the hard work and obstacles he’s had to overcome to earn his first Test cap.”

Loosehead James Slipper will again captain the Wallabies after Michael Hooper pulled out of last week’s clash on the eve of the game due to mental health issues to return home.

Australia lead the Rugby Championship by a point from South Africa following their last gasp, bonus-point win last week.

Meanwhile, Argentina’s Australian coach Michael Cheika made four changes to his side on Thursday for the weekend clash.

Gonzalo Bertranou earns a recall at scrum-half in place of Tomas Cubelli, who drops to the bench, while Matias Moroni starts at outside center and Juan Imhoff on the left wing, with Emiliano Boffelli switching to the opposite flank.

There is one change in the pack as Thomas Gallo gets the nod at loosehead with Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro dropping to the replacements’ bench.

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If veteran hooker Agustin Creevy comes off the bench, will equal the record number of Puma caps held by injured fly-half Nicolas Sanchez.

“We want to have competition in training so we try to give everyone a chance during the week based on the strategy we’re going to play on Saturday, who’s ready for the game,” Cheika said about the changes.

“For example, a guy like Bertranou has been very sharp in training… We’ve got good half backs, we’re starting to build some good depth there .. and strong competition so he wins his place and now has an opportunity in the game.”

The Pumas sit bottom of the Rugby Championship following last week’s 41-26 defeat in Mendoza to the Wallabies.

– © AFP 2022

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