‘Vintage’ Wallaby to make debut against England at 33
PERTH, Australia (AP) — Second-rower Cadeyrn Neville will become the oldest Wallabies player in more than 20 years to make his test rugby debut after his surprise inclusion in the Australia side to face England on Saturday in Perth.
The 33-year-old Neville was a confirmed starter Thursday — 10 years after he was called into the squad without earning a cap.
England coach Eddie Jones, meanwhile, said veteran flanker Courtney Lawes would retain the captaincy despite Owen Farrell’s return. Named at inside center, Farrell was tipped to return from injury as skipper but Jones stayed with Lawes, who led the team through the Six Nations.
It’s the first time since 2018 that Farrell has been overlooked as captain.
Farrell sustained injuries to both ankles which ruled him out of the entire Six Nations. His last test was against Australia last November, when England won 32-15.
Three players could make their England debuts after being named on the bench — Australia-born center Guy Porter, scrumhalf Jack van Poortvliet and teenage fullback Henry Arundell.
“Picking the 23 out of this group of 36 was difficult,” said Jones, who has led England to eight consecutive wins over his home country. “We feel we have a well-balanced team which is ready for this improving Australia team. We’ll take it to them from the start.”
In 2012, Neville was in his first year playing for the Melbourne Rebels — his first of three Australian Super Rugby sides — when he was drafted into the Wallabies squad to travel to Argentina and then later on a British tour. But he never made it into a matchday 23.
But after shifting to Queensland, a stint in Japan, and then the ACT Brumbies in 2020, Neville has been rewarded. He’s the third oldest player to debut for the Wallabies since World War Two, behind ex-Springbok Tiaan Strauss in 1999 (33 years, 349 days), and one-test back-rower Ken Yanz in 1958 (33 years, 295 days).
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie also named David Porecki to make his test debut. Porecki spent five years in English rugby with Saracens and London Irish before returning to Australia in 2020 and playing in the New South Wales Waratahs front row.
Michael Hooper will captain the Wallabies for the 66th time.
Nic White and playmaker Quade Cooper will resume their halves partnership for the first time since leading the Wallabies to five straight test wins in 2021.
Cooper’s fellow Japan-based back, Samu Kerevi, will return at inside center to link with Len Ikitau in the midfield. Ikitau will start his 10th consecutive test at outside center.
Prop James Slipper, a 114-test stalwart who made his test debut against England in Perth in 2010, is in the reserves.
The teams will play two other tests in Brisbane and Sydney on the following two Saturdays.
“The whole squad has worked hard over the past fortnight for what’s going to be a tough three-test series against a very good England side,” Rennie said.
Australia: Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Nic White; Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper (captain), Rob Leota, Cadeyrn Neville, Darcy Swain, Allan Ala’alatoa, David Porecki, Angus Bell. Reserves: Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Matt Philip, Pete Samu, Jake Gordon, Noah Lolesio, Jordan Petaia.
England: Freddie Steward, Jack Nowell, Joe Marchant, Owen Farrell, Joe Cokanasiga, Marcus Smith, Danny Care; Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry, Courtney Lawes (captain), Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Will Stuart, Jamie George, Ellis Genge. Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Joe Heyes, Ollie Chessum, Lewis Ludlam, Jack van Poortlviet, Guy Porter, Henry Arundell.
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