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Saints sign Wallabies star

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Image Credit: Northampton Saints

Northampton Saints are delighted to confirm the signing of Australian international lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto ahead of the 2022/23 season.

The 6’6” second row – who clocks in at 116kgs and can also line up in the back row – has 30 Test caps to his name for the Wallabies, and will arrive at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens following the conclusion of the 2022 Super Rugby campaign.

After representing Sydney’s Western Suburbs rugby league side at age-group level, Salakaia-Loto came through the Colts and Shute Shield teams for Randwick, also getting selected for Australia in the 2015 and 2016 World Rugby Under-20s Championships.

He signed his first professional contract with Queensland Reds in 2015 and has since enjoyed a stellar seven-year Super Rugby career, making 64 appearances in the competition to date.

His form for the Reds was rewarded with a Test debut for Australia against South Africa in 2017; Salakaia-Loto then notched up five appearances at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and has also taken his Rugby Championship tally to 12, but the 25-year-old is now relishing the prospect of proving his ability in the Gallagher Premiership.

“I am incredibly excited to be signing for Northampton Saints, a prestigious Club which is known around the world and boasts a long history of success,” Salakaia-Loto said.

“I’ve heard that Franklin’s Gardens is an amazing place to play rugby, and for a long time now, I have wanted to test myself in the Northern Hemisphere.”

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto

“The Northampton squad is already filled with talent and I’m just looking forward to getting over to England later this year to try to develop my game, and help the team win some trophies.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for me and my family, so I can’t wait to pull on a Black, Green and Gold jersey for the first time.”

Saints’ incoming Director of Rugby, Phil Dowson, added: “First and foremost, Lukhan is a big man and a phenomenal athlete, who in the lineout can both jump and call as well. From a set-piece point of view that’s a massive feather in his cap as he can get in the air in attack and in defence.

“But he’s also got a fantastic skillset with a background in rugby league; he’s fast and has got the ability to move and offload the ball too, so he possesses all the credentials he needs to be a real handful in the Gallagher Premiership.

“He’s still a young man at 25, but is really highly regarded within the Australian environment and comes to Franklin’s Gardens with international experience – so he’s a very exciting signing for us and I’m sure he will add a huge amount to the group.”

International

Wallabies forced into hooker change

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Australia’s hopes of back-to-back Rugby Championship wins over Argentina have suffered a major setback with hooker Folau Fainga’a the latest casualty.

Fainga’a was ruled out on the eve of the San Juan Test on Sunday morning (AEST) after concussion symptoms emerged from a Thursday training session.

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It’s a massive blow against the Pumas with Fainga’a turning in his best Test performance in last week’s 41-26 win in Mendoza.

The Wallabies have already lost Dave Porecki (concussion), Michael Hooper (mental health), Quade Cooper (Achilles), Hunter Paisami (concussion) and Allan Ala’alatoa (family bereavement) from the tour.

Lachlan Lonergan will make his first Test start while 20-year-old hooker Billy Pollard, who was a late call-up to Argentina following the loss of Porecki, is in line to make his international debut.

Pollard has only played eight Super Rugby games but gained some valuable experience with the Australia A team in the Pacific Cup last month.

It leaves Australia with two debutants among the reserves  in Pollard and Pone Fa’amausili while fellow frontrower Matt Gibbon only played a few minutes of Test rugby from the bench in the first Test.

The late change to the front row will bolster hopes of a home-town victory with Argentina priding themselves on their set-piece.

But stand-in skipper James Slipper said he had plenty of confidence in both Lonergan and Pollard.

“Lonners (Lonergan) has been playing really well this year and it is another good opportunity for him,” Slipper said at their final training session.

“It’s his first start for the Wallabies and one thing you know about ‘Noss’ is that he looks very calm, but when he’s out there he goes full throttle so I am really excited to see how he goes.”

He joked with Pollard’s rushed flight to Argentina he didn’t have his own boots.

“Billy obviously came over late and he has been using my scrum boots all week so I am not even sure if he has his own boots.

“He is a talented young guy who is really excited and you can tell how pumped he is so what you get from youth is that enthusiasm and I reckon both of them will bring heaps.”

With former Brumbies coach Dan McKellar now steering the Wallabies forwards, Slipper said the transition from Super Rugby to the Test stage would help the two players feel comfortable.

“For the players coming in, it’s not incredibly new to them,” Slipper said. 

“There is not much detail uptake to be done, so they’re pretty comfortable with everything they need to know and having Dan here is a big help for them, having the same coach. 

“They’re pretty comfortable. They don’t seem nervous at all but let’s wait until tomorrow I guess.”

Wallabies (15-1): Tom Wright, Jordan Petaia, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete, James O’Connor, Nic White, Rob Valetini, Fraser McReight, Jed Holloway, Darcy Swain, Rory Arnold, Taniela Tupou, Lachlan Lonergan, James Slipper (c).

Reserves: Billy Pollard, Matt Gibbon, Pone Fa’amausili, Nick Frost, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, Irae Simone, Reece Hodge.

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O’Connor at flyhalf, Arnold to start in San Juan

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Reds playmaker James O’Connor will start for the Wallabies for the first time this year when the side take on Argentina in San Juan on Saturday afternoon (local time; 5:10am Sunday AEST). 

O’Connor will wear the number 10 jersey and partner Nic White in the halves as the side look for back-to-back wins against Los Pumas to start their 2022 eToro Rugby Championship campaign.

Towering lock Rory Arnold will make his first appearance in the gold jersey this year, named in the starting second row alongside former Brumbies teammate Darcy Swain for the first time at Test level.

NSW Waratahs midfielder Lalakai Foketi has earned his first run-on at International level, where he’ll start at inside centre, partnering the fleet-footed Len Ikitau in the centres. 

There’s also a change in the front row with Taniela Tupou set to start at tighthead prop, joining hooker Folau Fainga’a who had a notable outing in the side’s 41-25 win in Mendoza.  Test centurion James Slipper will lead the side as the loosehead prop in the absence of Michael Hooper. 

The backrow remains unchanged with last week’s debutant Jed Holloway to start at blindside flanker alongside Reds stalwart Fraser McReight at openside and Rob Valetini at number eight. 

The ever-improving Jordan Petaia will again line up on the right wing, with powerhouse Marika Koroibete on the left edge.  Tom Wright’s impressive first start at fullback rewarded with a second straight week in the number 15 jersey.

Rebels talent Pone Fa’amausili has been named to make his potential Test debut off the pine as the finishing tighthead prop, alongside club teammate Matt Gibbon as the reserve loosehead.  The athletic Lachlan Lonergan has been named as replacement hooker.

Nick Frost’s Test career continues to grow, again named to cover the second row with the versatile Pete Samu able to provide support across the backrow. 

Queensland captain Tate McDermott has been recalled and will bring energy as the finishing scrumhalf, while Irae Simone will be looking to add to his two Test caps, named in the Wallabies side for the first time since 2020.  After an outstanding cameo at flyhalf last week Reece Hodge has again been named in the number 23 jersey.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said: “After a tough, physical game last week it’s great to be able to call on the experience of guys like James and Rory and also see the team’s excitement for La and Irae who get to wear the Wallaby gold again on Saturday.”

“It’s going to be a proud occasion for Pone and his family and it’s a testament to him for the hard work and obstacles he’s had to overcome to earn his first Test cap. 

“Argentina and their supporters will be expecting a response this weekend and we’ll need to increase our physicality and accuracy to get another positive result in San Juan.”

Every Wallabies Test will be ad-free, live and on-demand with extended coverage on Stan Sport. Every home Wallabies Test will also be live, free-to-air on the Nine Network.

Wallabies team to play Argentina at the Estadio del Bicentenario, San Juan on Saturday 13 August, 4:10pm ART

  1. James Slipper (c) (118 Tests)
  2. Folau Fainga’a (29 Tests)
  3. Taniela Tupou (41 Tests)
  4. Rory Arnold (29 Tests)
  5. Darcy Swain (12 Tests)
  6. Jed Holloway (1 Test)
  7. Fraser McReight (3 Tests)
  8. Rob Valetini (22 Tests)
  9. Nic White (51 Tests)
  10. James O’Connor (63 Tests)
  11. Marika Koroibete (46 Tests)
  12. Lalakai Foketi (1 Test)
  13. Len Ikitau (16 Tests)
  14. Jordan Petaia (19 Tests)
  15. Tom Wright (13 Tests)
    Replacements
  16. Lachlan Lonergan (5 Tests)
  17. Matt Gibbon (1 Test)
  18. Pone Fa’amausili*
  19. Nick Frost (3 Tests)
  20. Pete Samu (23 Tests)
  21. Tate McDermott (16 Tests)
  22. Irae Simone (2 Tests)
  23. Reece Hodge (56 Tests)
    *denotes uncapped

2022 eToro Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup Fixtures

Wallabies 41 defeated Argentina 26, Sunday 7 August  at Estadio Malvinas, Mendoza

Wallabies v Argentina, Sunday 13 August, 5:10am AEST at Estadio del Bicentenario, San Juan

Wallabies v South Africa, Saturday 27 August, 3:00pm ACST at Adelaide Oval, Adelaide

Wallabies v South Africa, Saturday 3 September, 7:30pm AEST at Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Wallabies v New Zealand, Thursday 15 September, 7:45pm AEST at Marvel Stadium, Melbourne

Wallabies v New Zealand, Saturday 24 September, 5:05pm AEST at Eden Park, Auckland

Content & Images from – Australia Rugby

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All Blacks named for Ellis Park clash

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All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has named his side for the second Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship Test against South Africa at Ellis Park Stadium.

Uncapped tighthead prop Fletcher Newell has been introduced to the match-day 23 as front row cover, while props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax have been named in the run-on side. They are joined by hooker Samisoni Taukeiaho, while 69-Test veteran Codie Taylor returns to the match-day 23 as cover.

 

Blindside flanker Shannon Frizell has also been moved into the run-on side after being used as an impact player during the first Test in Mbombela, marking his 14th appearance in the number six jersey. In the back row, he is joined by Ardie Savea and captain Sam Cane who will surpass Jerome Kaino (81) as the third-most capped All Black loose forward in Tests.

The only change made to the backline is at first-five eighths. Richie Mo’unga will run out in the number 10 jersey for the first time this season, as he closes in on Carlos Spencer (291) for sixth place on the All Blacks’ all-time points-scoring list.

 

“Belief and confidence remain high in our group, which is working incredibly hard this week,” said Foster. “Playing at Ellis Park is always a special occasion for any All Black team, and this weekend will be no different.

 

“Adding to that, the Freedom Cup is on the line which makes this a challenge that everyone is looking forward to.”

 

All Blacks match-day 23 (Test caps in brackets):

1. Ethan de Groot (5)

2. Samisoni Taukei’aho (12)

3. Tyrel Lomax (15)

4. Samuel Whitelock (135)

5. Scott Barrett (51)

6. Shannon Frizell (18)

7. Sam Cane © (81)

8. Ardie Savea (63)

9. Aaron Smith (106)

10. Richie Mo’unga (36)

11. Caleb Clarke (6)

12. David Havili (17)

13. Rieko Ioane (51)

14. Will Jordan (16)

15. Jordie Barrett (40)

16. Codie Taylor (69)

17. George Bower (15)

18. Fletcher Newell *

19. Tupou Vaa’i (13)

20. Akira Ioane (15)

21. Finlay Christie (7)

22. Beauden Barrett (105)

23. Quinn Tupaea (10)

 

*Debut

Content & Images from – New Zealand Rugby

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