Former Wallaroos captain Grace Hamilton was sensationally dropped in the team’s first O’Reilly Test against the Black Ferns.
Just months after losing the Australian captaincy to former Sevens star Shannon Parry, the back rower failed to make the cut on Matchday 23 with coach Jay Tregonning choosing the young Brumbies star Grace Kemp ahead of the 30-year-old.
Tregonning called the selection “the toughest call” he has had to make since taking over as coach at the end of 2021.
“That was a really tough call, you know, Grace [Hamilton] has been an integral part of the team for many years,” Tregonning said after the team announcement. -this. far who justifies it to begin with.
“Obviously this is probably the toughest call I’ve had to make in my short tenure coaching the Wallaroos. Grace responded very well; her coaching attitude and effort today has We’ve been exceptional, so we’ll have a more in-depth discussion with Grace about what her plans are, but she’s still an integral part of this team.”
Kemp made his Wallaroos debut on the bench in the Pacific Four Series loss to Canada. The back rower impressed the game almost immediately with a midfield run in wet conditions, and she is expected to do the same as she joins Parry and Emily Chancellor in the back row.
In other changes, loose prop Bree-Anna Cheetham will make his Test debut after missing the entire Super W season through injury. Cheetham made her way to the Wallaroos squad for the Pacific Four Series but failed to be selected throughout the tournament.
Cheetham will join Bridie O’Gorman and Ashley Marsters to complete the front row, while veteran Liz Patu missed selection with Adiana Talakai, Emily Robinson and Eva Karpani to complete the front row reserves.
“Liz and I have had some really good talks about where she is at the moment, and we all agree that a fit and fired Liz Patu is someone you wouldn’t leave behind. aside and she’s not here at the moment and we’ve discussed it,” Tregonning said.
“It was a real mature conversation with Liz about where she is physically at right now and obviously that opens the door for Bri who came off a disappointing Pac Four tour where she was on the team but didn’t is making her debut; but coming into the starting team, we’re confident she’s going to come in and get the job done.”
After a disappointing Pacific Four series that saw the Wallaroos fall in all three Test matches, attention turned to their attack after they failed to convert several chances from the set piece, while that their bottom line failed to shoot repeatedly.
“I really think so [lineout] was our weapon and our frustration, I guess, at the end with a few missed chances in the set piece, just like part of our attacking form,” Tregonning said. “But we’ve had many conversations over the past few days that our attack is only as good as our set piece and then attack is only good if our breakdown also works, making sure that we get a good secure ball.
“A big priority for us throughout these seven weeks has been skills under fatigue, both from a set piece and from an attacking perspective, so we’ve been working a lot on that, Sione’s [Fukofuka] did a great job trying to give the girls some confidence in attack and hopefully we can see some attacking flair on Saturday.”
In a boost for the team, Ivania Wong returns to the wing after injuring her knee against the Black Ferns in the Pacifc Four opener. Making his debut against Fiji earlier this year, Wong proved to be an elusive running back with multiple dart runs in his three Test appearances.
Mahalia Murphy also returns to the starting line-up on the wing, joining Pauline Piliae-Rasabale at full-back, while Lori Cramer has moved to the bench. In another baseline change, Illiseva Batibasaga returns to starting halfback with Layne Morgan to come off the bench.
Wallaroos: Bree-Anna Cheetham, Ashley Marsters, Bridie O’Gorman, Michaela Leonard, Kaitlin Leaney, Emily Chancellor, Shannon Parry, Grace Kemp, Illiseva Batibasaga, Arabella McKenzie, Ivania EWong, Cecelia Smith, Georgina Friedrichs, Mahalia Murphy, Pauline Piliae-Rasabale . Replacements: Adiana Talakai, Emily Robinson, Eva Karpani, Atasi Lafai, Piper Duck, Layne Morgan, Trilleen Pomare, Lori Cramer.