Jones rings changes at half-back for must win Wales clash

Australia coach Eddie Jones on Friday picked Ben Donaldson to start at fly-half with Tate McDermott returning from concussion to partner him in the half-backs for this weekend’s must-win World Cup clash with Wales.

Donaldson started Australia’s first two Pool C matches at full-back but replaces Carter Gordon, who played poorly in last week’s 22-15 defeat to Fiji and drops to the bench.

It was the major decision facing Jones, whether to stick with 22-year-old Gordon, who was bullied by Fiji and before that struggled with both his place kicking and kicking from hand in his previous two games.

Australia cannot afford to lose on Sunday in Lyon against a Wales team that has won its opening two Pool C matches.

Jones said Donaldson would bring “a freshness to the position.”

Donaldson had switched to fly-half midway through the second half against Fiji after Jones hauled off Gordon.

“He attacks the line well, Ben.”

Jones added: “Against Wales, if we’re up against some quick ruck ball with (referee) Wayne Barnes, who generally referees a game of quick ruck ball, we need a 10 who attacks the line.”

Donaldson, 24, was the star of Australia’s opening 35-15 win over Georgia, scoring two tries in a personal haul of 25 points.

Jones insisted it was the right time to take Gordon out of the firing line.

“I just felt we needed to probably freshen the team up. Carter’s had an opportunity, he struggled a bit against Fiji and we thought he’s best to finish the game for us,” said Jones.

“With young players you’ve got to have a feel of where they are, and sometimes you need to back them and sometimes you need to pull them away a little bit, and just at the moment we feel like it’s best to pull him away a little bit.

“Obviously (he’s) disappointed, every player’s disappointed, they all want to start but he knows he’s got an important role in the team.”

– ‘On the money’ –

Rob Leota comes into the back row in place of Fraser McReight while Andrew Kellaway lines up at full-back, Jones making three changes from the team that lost to Fiji.

“Kellaway is a smart player, he reads the game well,” said Jones.

“Against Wales particularly, who are an exceptionally high kicking team, his composure and his ability to read the game well is going to be important.

“One of the features of the World Cup is the amount of high speed running the back three have to do because of the amount of kicking, and he’s right on the money.”

Jones said Leota’s size was key in his selection over McReight, particularly with the likes of captain Will Skelton and prop Taniela Tupou injured.

“We’ve just gone for a bit of a heavier back row this week, we think there’s going to be a fair bit of quick ball this week, which will suit Tom Hooper at seven,” said Jones about Hooper’s positional switch from blindside to openside flanker.

“Leota gives us much more carry. Without Tupou and Skelton we lacked a bit of carry in the forwards against Fiji.”

Veteran scrum-half Nic White is on the replacements bench having deputised for McDermott against Fiji.

Hooker David Porecki continues to captain the side in the absence of Skelton.

Team (15-1)

Andrew Kellaway; Mark Nawaqanitawase, Jordan Petaia, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete; Ben Donaldson, Tate McDermott; Rob Valetini, Tom Hooper, Rob Leota; Will Richie Arnold, Nick Frost; James Slipper, David Porecki (capt), Angus Bell

Replacements: Matt Faessler, Blake Schoupp, Pone Fa’amausili, Matt Philip, Fraser McReight, Nic White, Carter Gordon, Suli Vunivalu

Coach: Eddie Jones (AUS)

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