Dave Rennie names untried halves combo for Wallabies' opener vs. France

The Wallabies have named a rookie halves combination for the first Test against France with Brumbies fly-half Noah Lolesio set for just his second run-on start, this time alongside Waratahs No. 9 Jake Gordon.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has otherwise named four potential debutants on the bench, with Lachlan Lonergan, Darcy Swain, Len Ikitau and Andrew Kellaway all included among the replacements.

But it will be the untried and unfamiliar halves combination that will garner the greatest attention, after first-choice pairing Nic White and James O'Connor were ruled out with injury.

White had been scrubbed with a knee injury shortly after joining camp on the Gold Coast while James O'Connor, who missed the Reds' final two Super Rugby Trans-Tasman games, has failed to overcome a neck injury.

Rennie said O'Connor had been ruled out last Thursday while Reece Hodge, another No. 10 option, simply hadn't played enough rugby in recent months after suffering a leg injury midway through the Super Rugby AU season.

Both injuries opened the door for Lolesio, who now has the opportunity for a second run-on start having endured a torrid evening against the All Blacks in Sydney last year.

"We're very happy with Noah, he's trained really well ... he's a confident kid and he's prepared to boss the big boys around," Rennie said of Lolesio. "He's got a full Super season behind him now, too, last year he missed about an eight-week block [of Super Rugby].

"So look he's played a lot of footy, he's played really well; his ability to play flat and on top of defences [is good]. He's put a lot of focus into his general kicking game; goal kicking's been excellent, he's made big shifts there, so it was a pretty easy choice."

Veteran centre Matt To'omua has overcome his injury to start at No. 12, reprising the centre combination with barnstorming Reds midfielder Hunter Paisami that Rennie first used in the opening Bledisloe Cup Test last year.

Given the lack of experience inside and outside him, To'omua's inclusion is a genuine boost for a backline that really only otherwise has Marika Koroibete's 32 Tests as a extended yardstick for international rugby.

"He's had a little bit of time away with his injury, he's come back in freshened and contributed really well," Rennie said of To'omua. "He's played 50-odd Tests, he understands the importance of voice from 12 and he's certainly been giving that to Noah. And he's good a really good skillset there, whether its carry, tackle, kick or pass; it's been great having him them there.

"Obviously Hunter is pretty versatile, he can play 12 or 13, but we like him at 13 and so it's a good combination for us."

Tom Banks, Tom Wright and Koroibete make up the back three, despite the Rebels winger's impending departure for Japan next year.

It is the same scenario for Brandon Paenga-Amosa up front with the Reds hooker winning the race to start despite his move to France at the end of the year. He is joined in the front-row by James Slipper and Alan Alaalatoa, the tighthead getting the nod ahead of Queensland powerhouse Taniela Tupou.

Returned lock Matt Philip joins Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in the second-row, while skipper Michael Hooper headlines the predicted back-row trio alongside No. 8 Harry Wilson and the in-form Rob Valetini.

The first Test was last week shifted from Sydney to Brisbane after the COVID outbreak in the NSW capital, meaning Suncorp Stadium will host two matches while the second game is set for Melbourne's AAMI Park,

France will clear their two-week hotel quarantine in Sydney on Tuesday and fly to Brisbane. The tourists have been permitted to train during their isolation period.

Australia squad for first Test vs. France

Tom Banks, Tom Wright, Hunter Paisami, Matt To'omua, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Jake Gordon; Harry Wilson, Michael Hooper, Rob Valetini, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Matt Philip, Alan Alaalatoa, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper. Replacements: Lachlan Lonergan, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Darcy Swain, Tate McDermott, Len Ikitau, Andrew Kellaway.