Hunter Paisami returns to Wallabies midfield for Japan Test

Wallabies centre Hunter Paisami is set to make his return to the starting line-up on Saturday against Japan with their tackle-busting star Samu Kerevi unavailable for selection through injury.

Kerevi suffered a high ankle sprain during the Wallabies last Rugby Championship clash against the Pumas and which he failed to overcome ahead of this weekend's opening spring tour match.

After leaving the Wallabies squad for the birth of his child ahead of Bledisloe III in August, Paisami has frustratingly been unable to push his way back into the side with Kerevi and Len Ikitau proving a fearsome duo against the Springboks and Pumas in the Rugby Championship. With Kerevi sidelined, the 23-year-old will get the chance to stake his claim on the position for the remainder of the spring tour.

Paisami is one of four changes to the starting line-up with Matt Philip returning to the second row, while Rob Leota moves into blindside flanker and Tom Wright has been given the nod to start on the wing in Marika Koroibete's absence.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has named a damaging front row with Taniela Tupou and Folau Fainga'a joining James Slipper in what will be his 111th Test match, surpassing former teammates Will Genia and Sekope Kepu and joining George Smith.

Philip rejoins Izack Rodda in the second row, while Leota will slot in alongside captain Michael Hooper and No.8 Rob Valetini to round out the starting forward pack.

Despite the absence of Kerevi and Koroibete, Rennie has named a strong backline with in-form Nic White retaining the starting halfback role, partnering Quade Cooper, while Pasiami will combine with Len Ikitau in the centres for the third time in their international careers.

Wright has forced his way back into the starting side alongside Andrew Kellaway who's had a standout season so far for the Wallabies, and Reece Hodge who's retained the fullback position for the third straight game.

Brumbies hooker Connal McInerney has been given his first chance to earn a Wallabies cap, named as a potential debutant on the bench alongside Allan Alaalatoa, who returns to the matchday squad, as well as Angus Bell.

Darcy Swain has been rotated to the bench as the second row replacement, with Pete Samu also moving back to the bench after an impressive night against Argentina in their final Rugby Championship clash.

James O'Connor will play his second match for the Wallabies following a long injury stint, coming off the bench alongside Tate McDermott and Jordan Petaia, who made his Wallabies debut in Oita during the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

"While it's disappointing for Samu not to be able to play in Japan, Hunter started the first five Tests this year prior to the birth of his daughter and is chomping at the bit for another opportunity," Rennie said.

"Connal's strong set piece and all-around game has earned him a chance to represent his country, which is a proud moment for him and his family.

"We've got a huge amount of respect for the Brave Blossoms who are now competitive with the best sides in the world.

"We'll need to be at our best."

Kerevi's inclusion in the tour post Japan is still unknown with discussion between Rugby Australia and Japan club Suntory Sungoliath ongoing. While the three November Tests fall inside the international Test window, RA is hesitant of straining any relationships they've developed in Japan if they demand players are released.

"Technically from a reg nine perspective players have to be released for national duty, so that includes Scotland, England and Wales.

"But we're also conscious that we want to build a strong relationship with the clubs, so we're talking through that at the moment." Kerevi has been playing for Australia since June after he was a late inclusion to Australia's men's sevens team at the Tokyo Olympics.

Wallabies: Reece Hodge, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Andrew Kellaway, Quade Cooper, Nic White, Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper, Rob Leota, Matt Philip, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Folau Fainga'a, James Slipper. Replacements: Connal McInerney, Angus Bell, Allan Alaalatoa, Darcy Swain, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, James O'Connor, Jordan Petaia.