Skelton to lead Wallabies against France in final hit out before Rugby World Cup

Fri, Aug 25, 2023, 7:27 AM
Rugby Australia
by Rugby Australia
Will Skelton will captain the Wallabies for the first time on Sunday evening in Paris. Photo: Getty Images
Will Skelton will captain the Wallabies for the first time on Sunday evening in Paris. Photo: Getty Images

Western Sydney’s Will Skelton will become the 87th Wallabies captain when he leads the side onto Stade de France on Sunday evening for the side’s final Test before the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Skelton will lead a young side against Les Bleus, with just 258 Test caps of experience in the starting XV and 12 of the matchday 23 with less than 10 Tests to their name to date.

NSW South Coast junior Blake Schoupp and Port Douglas product Issak Fines-Leleiwasa are both in line to make their Test debuts as replacements against one of the Rugby World Cup favourites in France.

Lalakai Foketi will play his first international since he scored a World Rugby Try of the Year contender at the same venue last year. He’ll partner the dynamic Jordan Petaia in the midfield.

Rapid winger Suliasi Vunivalu will start on left edge for the first time in his Wallabies career, linking up with Mark Nawaqanitawase and Andrew Kellaway in the back three in Paris.

The halves pairing of Tate McDermott and Carter Gordon will combine for the third straight Test, looking to build on their promising partnership ahead of the World Cup.

22-year-old Angus Bell will be looking to continue his strong form since returning from a serious foot injury, joining the consistent David Porecki and Taniela Tupou in the starting front row. Tupou earning his first Wallabies start since the corresponding Test in November last year.

Skelton will partner fellow France-based lock Richie Arnold in the second row, while Jones has named an unchanged backrow from Dunedin, with Tom Hooper and Fraser McReight the flankers and Rob Valetini at number eight.

In what shapes as a number of players first professional matches in the northern hemisphere, Schoupp will be joined by Zane Nonggorr and Matt Faessler as the finishing front row.

In a 6/2 split, Jones has named Matt Philip, Rob Leota and Langi Gleeson as the finishing forwards. The latter playing his first Test of 2023.

The versatile Ben Donaldson is the finishing backs cover alongside Fines-Leleiwasa.

Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones said: “We’ve had an impressive preparation for the Rugby World Cup this week. Improving our physical capacity has been a priority and our Rugby fitness is rapidly improving and we will look to use it against France.”

“To play against the tournament hosts in front of a massive crowd at the venue for the Final is perfect preparation for us.

“We are a young side, who is ambitious and in the process of developing our game.”

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Wallabies team to play France at Stade de France, Paris on Sunday 27 August, 5:45pm CET/2:55am AEST
  1. Angus Bell (23 Tests)
  2. David Porecki (14 Tests)
  3. Taniela Tupou (48 Tests)
  4. Richie Arnold (4 Tests)
  5. Will Skelton (c) (28 Tests)
  6. Tom Hooper (3 Tests)
  7. Fraser McReight (12 Tests)
  8. Rob Valetini (34 Tests)
  9. Tate McDermott (vc) (25 Tests)
  10. Carter Gordon (4 Tests)
  11. Suliasi Vunivalu (2 Tests)
  12. Lalakai Foketi (5 Tests)
  13. Jordan Petaia (27 Tests)
  14. Mark Nawaqanitawase (6 Tests)
  15. Andrew Kellaway (23 Tests Finishers
  16. Matt Faessler (1 Test)
  17. Blake Schoupp*
  18. Zane Nonggorr (3 Tests)
  19. Matt Philip (28 Tests)
  20. Rob Leota (16 Tests)
  21. Langi Gleeson (3 Tests)
  22. Issak Fines-Leleiwasa*
  23. Ben Donaldson (2 Tests) *denotes uncapped
2023 Fixtures

Wallabies v France, 5:45pm CEST/1:45am AEST, Sunday 27 August at Stade de France, Paris

Rugby World Cup Fixtures

Wallabies v Georgia, 6:00pm CEST/2:00am AEST, Saturday 9 September at Stade de France, Paris

Wallabies v Fiji, 5:45pm CEST/1:45am AEST, Sunday 17 September at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne

Wallabies v Wales, 9:00pm CEST/5:00am AEST, Sunday 24 September at OL Stadium, Lyon

Wallabies v Portugal, 5:45pm CEST/1:45am AEST, Sunday 1 October at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne