SYDNEY (Reuters) – Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is planning to be without experienced playmakers James O’Connor and Matt Toomua for the first of three home tests against France next month.
Flyhalf O’Connor is managing a groin “niggle” in Australia’s training camp on the Gold Coast, while inside centre Toomua is being treated for a neck injury in Canberra before joining the squad on Sunday.
Rennie also has young flyhalf Noah Lolesio, who made his debut last year, in the squad and played utility back Reece Hodge in the number 10 shirt in a win over New Zealand last season.
“We’ve got some good young men in this group who are pressing for selection, so you’ve got to plan to be without them,” he told reporters from Sanctuary Cove on Thursday.
“We’ll know more at the end of the weekend, see how Matt returns and James recovers.”
The injury situation at scrumhalf is a little more concerning with Rennie confirming that a knee injury has sidelined his starting halfback from last season, Nic White.
“He’s done an MCL so that’ll be four plus weeks so that’ll count him out of the French series,” Rennie said, referring to a ligament injury.
That means a likely first test start for Queensland’s electric halfback Tate McDermott and a possible first cap for Ryan Lonergan, who was brought into the camp as injury cover for Jake Gordon.
Rennie said that Gordon, who had been pencilled in to play a part in the second test, was ahead of schedule in his recovery from a knee injury and there were no plans to bring in another scrumhalf.
The New Zealander said he had been impressed by Lonergan, whose uncapped hooker brother Lachlan Lonergan is also in the squad.
“He’s a good player isn’t he?” Rennie said.
“He’s a smart kid and it’s been good having him in this environment. We brought him in as cover for Jake and we’re hanging onto him, he’s going really well.
Australia take on an understrength France side in Sydney on July 7 before tests in Melbourne and Brisbane over the following 10 days.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Robert Birsel)