Will Genia to make his return for the Wallabies. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett) NO ARCHIVING
Will Genia to make his return for the Wallabies. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett) NO ARCHIVING

Major blow as Wallabies lose key forward

TOM Robertson and Tatafu Polota-Nau will start in the front row for the opening Bledisloe Cup match against New Zealand on Saturday night at ANZ Stadium.

Loosehead prop Robertson has been handed just his third Test start after Scott Sio failed to overcome a shoulder injury.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has also opted to start the more experienced Polota-Nau over fellow hooker Tolu Latu, who is on the bench.

Robertson and Polota-Nau will partner Sekope Kepu in the front row, while Reece Hodge has been named at outside centre as expected.

Jack Maddocks is set for his Test debut off the bench, while Pete Samu has won the battle against Ned Hanigan as back-up flanker off the pine.

Sio's injury is a major blow for Australia.

Scott Sio’s injury is a major blow for Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Scott Sio’s injury is a major blow for Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The experienced 46-Test prop has been a rock of the scrum and started in most of the big games for the Wallabies in the past four years

Waratahs loosehead Robertson has played 19 of his 21 Tests off the bench, and will be up against the all Crusaders front row of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks of New Zealand.

Polota-Nau slots straight back into the starting team despite not playing a Test since last November, and spending most of the year in England with Leicester.

While Brandon Paenga-Amosa started in the last Test against Ireland with Latu off the bench, Latu impressed when he came on and finished the Super Rugby season strongly for the Waratahs.

Polota-Nau only arrived in Wallabies camp two weeks ago and said he believed he would not be given a start because Latu was ahead of him in the selection picture.

Jack Maddocks will make his Wallabies debut from the bench. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Jack Maddocks will make his Wallabies debut from the bench. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

However, Cheika obviously backs Polota-Nau's lineout throwing under pressure at the start of the game, with the All Blacks sure to kick to the sidelines and pile pressure at that set-piece.

The Kiwis have also been forced to make a late change to their front-row stocks after reserve Ofa Tuungafase was ruled out with a rib injury.

Crusaders back-up Tim Perry has been named in his place on the bench for his Test debut.

The All Blacks dropped Jordie Barrett from the team, opting for Waisake Naholo on the wing and Ben Smith at fullback.

Jack Goodhue has been named to start at centre alongside Ryan Crotty, with the title-winning Crusaders boasting nine of the 23-man squad for the visitors.

TEAMS FOR THE FIRST BLEDISLOE CUP OF THE SEASON

Wallabies: 15. Israel Folau 14. Dane Haylett-Petty 13. Reece Hodge 12. Kurtley Beale 11. Marika Koroibete 10. Bernard Foley 9. Will Genia 8. David Pocock 7. Michael Hooper (captain) 6. Lukhan Tui 5. Adam Coleman 4. Izack Rodda 3. Sekope Kepu 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau 1. Tom Robertson.

Reserves: 16. Tolu Latu 17. Allan Alaalatoa 18. Taniela Tupou 19. Rob Simmons 20. Pete Samu 21. Nick Phipps 22. Matt Toomua 23. Jack Maddocks.

All Blacks: 15. Ben Smith 14. Waisake Naholo 13. Jack Goodhue 12. Ryan Crotty 11. Rieko Ioane 10. Beauden Barrett 9. Aaron Smith 8. Kieran Read (capt) 7. Sam Cane 6. Liam Squire 5. Sam Whitelock 4. Brodie Retallick 3. Owen Franks 2. Codie Taylor 1. Joe Moody. Reserves: 16. Nathan Harris 17. Karl Tu'inukuafe 18. Ofa Tuungafasi 19. Scott Barrett 20. Ardie Savea 21. TJ Perenara 22. Damian McKenzie 23. Anton Lienert-Brown.

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