Wallabies vs England decider, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto called Australia squad, Mark Nawaqanitawase, team news, video

Given the cold shoulder by Brad Thorn at the Queensland Reds, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto has been called into the Wallabies from club rugby for their third Test decider against England.

The 25-year-old is one of two late additions to the Wallabies’ squad, with Waratahs flyer Mark Nawaqanitawase also called up.

It’s unlikely either will line-up against Eddie Jones’ men at the SCG, but their call-ups speak volumes of the injury crisis unfolding at the Wallabies.

Instead, Reece Hodge looms like earning a recall at fullback with Tom Wright shifting to the wing, while two-time NRL winner Suliasi Vunivalu is expected to make his debut off the bench.

Like England, who have their own injuries in the forwards, the Wallabies are having a lighter day of training after a bruising fortnight.

But the decision not to do any media opportunities was a baffling one ahead of the series decider at the SCG, particularly with the Test not yet sold out and the match shaping as one of the biggest in Australian rugby in years.

A Wallabies spokesperson said they had planned to do one, but after English Premiership side Aston Villa, who are staying at the same hotel on the Gold Coast, pulled out of a combined press opportunity they too pulled the pin.

Regardless, with the code battling for media attention and State of Origin to dominate headlines ahead of Wednesday’s series decider, it was an odd look.

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Lukhan Salakaia-Loto has been called into the Wallabies’ squad from club rugby. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

The Wallabies have suffered 10 injuries in the past two weeks, with another four players — Jordan Petaia, Izaia Perese, Scott Sio and Cadeyrn Neville — going down during the 25-17 loss to England in Brisbane on Saturday.

Neville’s injury meant the Wallabies have just two healthy second-rowers, with Darcy Swain unavailable after copping a two-match suspension for his first Test red card in Perth.

Uncapped Wallaby Jed Holloway remains a slim chance of playing, as he races the clock to be fit after his injury at camp in late June.

Wallabies regular Izack Rodda remains on the injury list, after his foot injury in Super Rugby. While overseas stars Will Skelton and Rory Arnold weren’t considered after long seasons in the French Top 14.

It leaves just Matt Philip and rookie Nick Frost, who made his debut off the bench on Saturday, as the two remaining tall timbers in the squad.

Rennie will either start both, leaving the Wallabies light in the second-row, or shift Rob Leota from blindside flanker to the second-row and bring in either Harry Wilson or Pete Samu to the back-row.

Salakaia-Loto, who played the last of his 30 Tests against the All Blacks at Eden Park, is likely shaping as an insurance policy but could yet feature on the bench.

The Wallabies boss could have called up Reds lock Ryan Smith from the Australia A program in Fiji, but the hard second-rower has spent no time with the national squad and he is growing with every match. Salakaia-Loto brings experience and has been regularly around Rennie’s squads since he took over in 2020 despite being looked over this year.

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While he was a surprise omission from last year’s Spring Tour after leaving the camp for the birth for his first child, Salakaia-Loto fell out of favour at the Reds after signing with Northampton Saints earlier in the year.

The versatile forward played just six matches for the Reds in 2022 and played the last of his Super Rugby matches against the Blues in May. He was surprisingly looked over for their quarter-final despite missing a number of Test players due to injury.

He has since being playing for Souths in Brisbane’s club rugby competition.

Waratahs flyer Mark Nawaqanitawase will link up with the Wallabies. Photo:/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Nawaqanitawase, too, has been called in following injuries to Petaia and Perese in Brisbane, as well as Tom Banks and Andrew Kellaway.

It’s understood the talented back was close to selection for the main squad in June, but instead played the past two matches for Australia A in the Pacific Nations Cup.


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He is unlikely to play, but provides cover at fullback and on the wing. He will also play for Australia at the Commonwealth Games, having featured for the Sevens program ahead of last year’s Olympics.

His selection is a reflection of his ceiling as a player and points to the future, with the outside back one of the best in the air in Australia. He is also one of Australia’s best finishers.

The 21-year-old enjoyed a breakout season in Super Rugby for the Waratahs after starting the season outside the matchday 23. But after working on his defence and bulking up, he won over Waratahs management and hasn’t looked back.

He scored seven tries in 12 matches and has scored 14 in 31 games since debuting against the Crusaders in 2020, where he scored a double on debut.

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