At the unveiling of his squad for the end of year tour Dave Rennie promised that Will Skelton would see more game time after being afforded precious few minutes during last year‘s corresponding tour.
He might yet still but for now the damaging lock forward, who won the European Champions Cup earlier this year with La Rochelle, is set to once again be introduced off the bench against France in Paris.
It does not come as a great surprise, with the 30-year-old only joining the Wallabies at the start of the week.
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Skelton hinted as much too when he said, “all going well, hopefully I‘ll be on the bench”.
Indeed, the 21-capped forward will be with Rennie expected to give Nick Frost and Cadeyrn Neville another opportunity to build on their encouraging performance.
Rennie is expected to make minimal changes to his forward pack, with Taniela Tupou in-line for a recall to the starting side after Allan Alaalatoa was concussed during the great escape against Scotland at Murrayfield.
The Test looms as a significant one for Tupou, with the giant prop showing signs of his best last week before giving away a silly penalty at the death that fortunately did not come back to bite the Wallabies.
Nonetheless after an underwhelming year, which has been marred by calf injuries and form struggles, the clash against a giant French side could just be the spark required to reignite Tupou‘s focus.
Meanwhile, upon naming his side last week Rennie said he would “rotate the nines” on the tour and it looks like the New Zealand coach will do just that.
It‘s a bold play, one that does little for cohesion after what Jock Campbell described as a “clunky” performance against Scotland.
Campbell, too, is hoping for extra minutes after the silky Queensland fullback hardly touched the ball after coming on late for Tom Banks in the final quarter of the match.
“Obviously everyone‘s looking for a start and more minutes but it was a bit different coming on,” he admitted following his debut off the bench at Murrayfield.
Campbell, 27, has often been compared to the marvellous All Blacks centre Conrad Smith by Rennie and the fullback will be hopeful to produce an eye-catching performance, with next year‘s 33-man World Cup squad to leave a number of hearts broken.
Fortunately for Campbell he has had a better preparation for the Test than the last, after the softly-spoken outside back rolled his ankle in the gym and missed a training session in the lead-up to his debut.
He faces a huge assignment though, with the kick-heavy French side, who boast the best halves in the world in Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack, to test him out under the high ball.
How he fares in attack will be fascinating too, with Campbell having barely played alongside his teammates in any level.
But most of the attention will be on Skelton‘s return.
Having debuted against France in 2014, the giant lock admitted he had yet to deliver at international level and the next three weeks shape as career defining ones for a man who was earlier this year nominated for European player of the year.
“I don’t think I’ve been the happiest with my form coming into the national team,” Skelton told reporters via zoom.
“I don’t think I’ve played my best, but it is tough coming in just for three games.
“But we see other countries doing it too and they’re performing well. So I think that’s probably down to my preparation and getting it right for that week.
“When you put on the jersey for your country, you have to step up and you go to the next level.”
He faces no greater test in the game, with the Six Nations champions rated by many, including Skelton, as next year‘s World Cup favourites.
“Yeah probably, they‘re at home,” he said.
“I guess being favourites as well, but at home they‘ll put a lot of pressure on them.
“We‘re worried about this autumn series now, the end of year tour, so I’m not too fussed about the World Cup at the moment.
“But looking ahead, yeah they probably are, they‘re ranking second in the world, Ireland are No.1.
“It‘s a great tour for us and where we can lay a foundation from next year.”