Rona ax­ing puts Hodge in box seat to be Wal­la­bies No.13

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Sport - JU­LIAN LIN­DEN

REECE Hodge looms as the Wal­la­bies’ go-to man to fill the va­cant out­side cen­tre po­si­tion for Satur­day night’s Bledis­loe Cup opener at ANZ Sta­dium af­ter Cur­tis Rona was cut from the squad.

The Wal­la­bies are still keep­ing their cards close to their chest over who will start in the No.13 jer­sey but the ax­ing of Rona and the in­clu­sion of Tom Banks and Jack Mad­docks points to the ver­sa­tile Hodge get­ting the job.

“There are still a few guys in the squad who can play 13, so noth­ing’s fi­nalised as of yet,” Hodge said.

“I guess get­ting a bit of time there at train­ing over the past few weeks has made me a lot more con­fi­dent within the en­vi­ron­ment. It’s just about do­ing those com­bi­na­tions ob­vi­ously.”

Is­rael Fo­lau has been touted as a pos­si­bil­ity at out­side cen­tre but Wal­la­bies coach Michael Cheika has said he would pre­fer to keep him at full­back.

Kurt­ley Beale said both could fill the void left by the in­juries to Samu Kerevi and Te­vita Kuridrani.

“Reece is ob­vi­ously a very ver­sa­tile player and I’m sure if given the op­por­tu­nity he will step up and do a fine job,” Beale said.

“I’m pretty con­fi­dent with who­ever we put in that po­si­tion. I know they will be pretty keen to get out there and ex­press them­selves and make sure they get the job done for the team.”

Banks and Mad­docks were the only un­capped play­ers to re­tain their places in the squad, which was cut from 36 to 28 when Rona, Fo­lau Fain­gaa, Jer­maine Ains­ley, Rory Arnold, Caleb Timu, Billy Meakes, Jor­dan Pe­taia and Sefa Naivalu were sent back to their club sides.

A fur­ther five play­ers will be re­leased be­fore the fi­nal match-day squad of 23 is an­nounced on Thurs­day.

Wal­la­bies’ 28-man squad: Al­lan Alaala­toa, Tom Banks, Kurt­ley Beale, Adam Cole­man, Is­rael Fo­lau, Bernard Fo­ley, Will Ge­nia, Ned Hani­gan, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Marika Koroi­bete, Tolu Latu, Jack Mad­docks, Bran­don Paenga-Amosa, Nick Phipps, David Po­cock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Joe Pow­ell, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Peter Samu, Rob Sim­mons, Scott Sio, Matt Toomua, Lukhan Tui, Taniela Tupou.

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