Australian rugby team news ahead of Bledisloe MCG opener, Andrew Kellaway, Jordan Petaia, Carter Gordon


Andrew Kellaway admits he’s been “chasing my lungs for the last 10 days”, but the fit-again Wallabies outside back says he’s “ready to go” and will pull on any jersey to line up against the All Blacks on Saturday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Kellaway, who missed the Wallabies’ opening two Tests after suffering a hamstring injury in training, is in the hunt to start in the No.15 jersey after Tom Wright was axed late last week.

A series of blunders against Argentina exposed Wright’s shortcomings, but his axing from the entire squad was a surprise given the Brumbies fullback was one of Australian rugby’s stronger performers throughout Super Rugby.

What Wright’s dumping revealed was that no one is safe under Eddie Jones’ watch, particularly with time of the essence less than a month out from the Wallabies’ departure to France.

“Seeing a guy of Wrighty’s class leave the group is only reaffirmation of that fact,” Kellaway told reporters on Monday.

“If you don’t take your opportunity then you leave yourself up for those things you can’t control.

“I don’t think that’s anything new. That’s something that’s always been there.”

Andrew Kellaway is poised to return against the All Blacks on Saturday at the MCG. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

On Saturday, Jones said Kellaway and Jordan Petaia, who is also hopeful for a recall after recovering from wrist surgery, had spent time training at fullback since the Wallabies regrouped last Thursday following four days off.

Curiously, Jones sidestepped whether Carter Gordon had spent any time in the position.

Realistically though, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Kellaway or Petaia in the No.15 jersey for a match of such significance.

Petaia’s explosiveness, raking kick and ability in the air has pricked Jones’ interest, but Kellaway’s street-smarts and ability to find space could have him just ahead to start at fullback.

Should Kellaway return, he’ll face a baptism of fire against an All Blacks side that is soaring.

Nor will he have time to get going either, with Ian Foster’s side showing magnificent accuracy and fluency in their game plan to blow Argentina and South Africa away in the opening stages of their recent Rugby Championship encounters.

Carter Gordon has had a promising start to his international career. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Yet, Kellaway, who scored on starting debut against the All Blacks in 2021 before scoring a double a week later against the same side on the wing, said that the high intensity at training had helped bring him up to speed.

“I’m getting used to coming back from injury at the moment. It’s been a pretty stop-start last two years,” he said.

“It’s tough coming back from injury but that’s part of the game and I’m fortunate the way we’ve been training lately. It’s probably as hard, if not harder than any game could throw at us, so I’m in the best possible spot to be prepared to come back.”

Nor is fullback the only position up for grabs in the backline, with Jones needing to settle on his midfield combination following Len Ikitau’s injury.

With Samu Kerevi likely to be retained, it leaves Waratahs duo Lalakai Foketi and Izaia Perese, as well as Petaia, battling it out to join the former Reds captain in the midfield.

What the performances of the past month have shown is that it’s hard to bring back multiple players from injury and expect them to hit the ground running immediately.

For that reason, it’s possible that Petaia, whose punch and ability to shrug away defenders is something Jones saw first-hand during the 2019 World Cup knockout stage, could come off the bench in his first match since the start of May.

Izaia Perese is an option to return for the Wallabies. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Perese, meanwhile, has impressed Jones since scraping into the Wallabies’ squad despite a slow start to the season for the Waratahs.

“He’s definitely a big option for us. He’s trained really well,” Jones told reporters on Saturday.

“When he came into (first) camp in June he was probably just making the squad. He’s really elevated himself, he’s got a great attitude to learn and is impressing us all round.

“He wants to go, mate. He’s off the long run, he’s banging it in short and not waiting for anyone to tell him what to do.

“That’s the sort of player we want.

“It reinforces the point I keep making. Australian rugby is at its best when we’ve got a bit of arrogance, got a bit of aggression, got a bit of boldness and we’re going at the opposition. It always has to come with smartness.

“That’s the team we want. A team that goes at the opposition.”

Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones has some crucial selection decisions to make ahead of their opening Bledisloe Test against the All Blacks. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

The Bledisloe fixture comes 10 months after the Wallabies’ heartbreaking and controversial 39-37 loss across town at Marvel Stadium.

While those painful lessons serve as a reminder of the decision-making required and the fact the Wallabies can’t be written off, more pressing is how the Wallabies balance using the ball.

After failing to win the ball back in Pretoria and being carved up across the park by the Springboks, the Wallabies weren’t able to capitalise on their turnovers against Los Pumas.

It meant the Wallabies once again had less than 40 per cent possession, leaving many to question Jones’ vision and tactics months after the veteran coach had emphatically decried that “possession rugby is dead”.

Kellaway said the Wallabies were still coming to grips with the changes Jones wanted.

“Are they reflective of where we’re at? I don’t think so,” he said.

“I think they’re more reflective of possibly our mindset as a group, which we’ve had to have a big shift.

“Eddie’s been working really hard to just change our perception around a couple of things, around the way we play the game, around the way we see the game. So, I suppose those stats maybe reflect a little bit of that but the most important stat at the end of the day is the score line, so we’ll work on tweaking that.”

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