Wallabies boosted by return of James O'Connor for Pumas finale

James O'Connor returns to pilot the Wallabies against the Pumas after missing the past two Test with injury Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

James O'Connor will start at No. 10 for the Wallabies in their Tri Nations finale against the Pumas at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday night.

O'Connor was deemed fit for selection earlier in the week and coach Dave Rennie has opted to restore the veteran utility to the playmaking hotseat after he missed the past three Tests through injury.

O'Connor's return pushes stopgap option Reece Hodge to fullback, Rennie retaining the versatile back's long-range kicking boot at the expense of the Brumbies' Tom Banks.

"Reece has done a great job for us at No. 10 over the past two games and we're confident he'll put in another good performance for us on Saturday night from fullback," Rennie said.

"The side has worked really hard over the last 10 weeks or so and built a strong connection and I know as a full squad we are really keen to put together a performance that reflects that."

The Wallabies have otherwise made just one further change to their starting side, with Alan Alaalatoa displacing Taniela Tupou at tighthead prop. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto has recovered from injury to win a spot on the bench while Irae Simone has also been included among the replacements.

"They've been tag-teaming really, haven't they, three Test starts each," Rennie said of Alaalatoa's selection ahead of Tupou. "We give [Alaalatoa] the nod this week, we know Nela got a bit agitated last time out and we've had a good chat about that; him coming off the bench was really effective against the All Blacks last time and we think that will be really important this week."

Australia drew 15-all with the Pumas in Newcastle a fortnight ago, a match they seemed to have under their control at 15-6 up, only for the South Americans to surge home and almost steal a second straight upset win.

Playing their fourth Test in as many weeks, Argentina are reeling from the axing of captain Pablo Matera, who was dumped over racist social media posts, while Guido Petti and Santiago Socino were also suspended.

The All Blacks all but wrapped up the Tri Nations with last week's 38-0 drubbing of the Pumas, with the Wallabies needing a victory by 101 points, and Argentina a 93-point triumph, if either nation is to lift the trophy.

"We've talked a lot about this being a springboard to next season and so we're not talking about last Test of the year and so on," Rennie replied when asked what his side could get out of Saturday's game.

"We've worked really hard; we were really disappointed with last time out because, really, we should have won that. We were probably a bit naive and as a group we've learned from that. And we saw that on the weekend with the All Blacks; when we up from 15-6 we didn't force them to play and chase the game a little bit. And I think if we had just plugged the corners for another five minutes that would have made the difference.

"Ultimately what we want is a quality performance, a reflection of all the hard work we've done over the last 10 or 11 weeks, and something to launch our season off next year."


Reece Hodge, Tom Wright, Jordan Petaia, Hunter Paisami, Marika Koroibete, James O'Connor, Nic White; Harry Wilson, Michael Hooper, Ned Hanigan, Matt Philip, Rob Simmons, Alan Alaalatoa, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper.

Replacements: Folau Fainga'a, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Rob Valetini, Jake Gordon, Irae Simone, Tom Banks.