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Wallabies vs Japan, team news, Hunter Paisami, Samu Kerevi, Dave Rennie, video


Hunter Paisami has been recalled for the Wallabies after Samu Kerevi was ruled out. Photo: Getty Images
Hunter Paisami has been recalled for the Wallabies after Samu Kerevi was ruled out. Photo: Getty Images

Having come close to pulling out of the Wallabies’ end-of-year spring tour, Hunter Paisami will start against Japan on Saturday.

News of his selection is expected to be confirmed on Thursday afternoon, when Dave Rennie reveals his side to face the Brave Blossoms in Oita.

Paisami returns after Samu Kerevi was kept on ice, having only started running following his syndesmosis injury against Argentina earlier this month.

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Yet, given the trump card that he has provided for the Wallabies and the difficult Tests that await Rennie’s men – Scotland, England and Wales – Kerevi was always unlikely to be rushed back from injury against Japan.

That is not even yet taking into account the 28-year-old’s concern about making himself available for the tour to the UK, with Kerevi anxious not to rock the boat with his Japanese club Suntory, who are paying his bills.

Kerevi’s unavailability, however, has given Paisami an opportunity to re-establish himself as a Wallabies regular.

After starting in the Wallabies’ opening five Tests of the year, the second-year professional rugby player missed Bledisloe III after returning to Brisbane early for the birth of his first child.

But in one Test, Kerevi showed why he is earning more than a $1m a season with Suntory, leaving Perth as one of a few Wallabies whose stocks didn’t fall from the Bledisloe disappointment.

Paisami was available for the final four Tests of The Rugby Championship, but was not selected as Rennie opted for a Kerevi-Len Ikitau midfield partnership.

That decision to look past him so soon after the birth of his child inflamed his relationship with Rennie.

It’s understood Paisami was close to making himself unavailable for the spring tour, before being convinced to tour.

In reality though, Paisami, who had breakout season last year and has commanded a starting role for the Reds and Wallabies since, is experiencing first-hand the competitiveness of the Wallabies.

The strong decision-making provided by Kerevi, as well as Quade Cooper, has shown the emerging crop of Wallabies the importance of time in the saddle.

Paisami, like Brumbies playmaker Noah Lolesio, are players of the future, but are still learning when to pass, run and kick.

Cooper is expected to retain the No.10 jersey and play alongside Nic White in the halves, with Rennie intent on winning the physical contest first before running over the top of the Brave Blossoms late in the match.

Other subtle tweaks are expected too, with Sean McMahon’s absence allowing for Lachie Swinton to return.

The Waratahs blindside flanker, as well as Rebels forward Rob Leota, could start after Pete Samu failed to grab the opportunity with both hands.

Samu, who won two Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, was a tad slow to the breakdown, and his ability to cover multiple positions and speed the game up could see him return to the reserves bench.

Japan, ranked No.10 in the world, won’t be taken lightly, with Rennie fully aware of the threat any Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown-coached side poses.

Rennie coached the Chiefs to back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, before Joseph and Brown led the Highlanders to the Super Rugby title in 2015.

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