Hodge starts at 10, Beale at fullback for Australia vs Japan
TOKYO (AP) — Reece Hodge will start at flyhalf and Kurtley Beale will switch from center to fullback in an injury-forced, experimental Wallabies backline for Saturday’s rugby test against Japan.
Australia, coming off a rare test win over the New Zealand All Blacks, will be playing Japan for the first time since the 2007 World Cup and for the first time on Japanese soil.
Coach Michael Cheika was forced into the makeshift changes after halves Will Genia (calf muscle) and Bernard Foley (illness) and utility back Karmichael Hunt (neck) were sidelined with injuries, and fullback Israel Folau chose not to tour.
Hodge, who has played all of his 20 tests in the outside backs and only rarely starts at flyhalf in Super Rugby, was moved into the No. 10 jersey instead of expected backup Beale when Foley and Hunt were ruled out. He’ll partner Nick Phipps in the halves.
Hunt was expected to start at fullback but an injury in practice this week resulted in a positional switch for Beale.
Samu Kerevi moves into the midfield and will combine with Tevita Kuridrani in the centers.
In the forwards, backrower Ben McCalman has been recalled among the reserves for the first time since August 2015, and could earn his 50th cap.
The Wallabies are playing in Japan, venue for the 2019 World Cup, en route to Europe, where they will play Wales, England and Scotland on consecutive weekends.
Australia: Kurtley Beale, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Reece Hodge, Nick Phipps; Sean McMahon, Michael Hooper, Ned Hanigan, Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio. Reserves: Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Matt Philip, Ben McCalman, Lopeti Timani, Joe Powell, Curtis Rona.