Ex-trash collector, theology student earns Wallabies call up
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — An ex-trash collector and theology student has earned a starting place in Australia's front row for the series-opening rugby test against Six Nation champion Ireland.
The 22-year-old Brandon Paenga-Amosa was selected at hooker for his Wallabies' debut on Saturday in Brisbane, where he has been playing for the Queensland Reds in his first season of Super Rugby.
His Queensland teammate and rugby league convert Caleb Timu will make his test debut at No. 8 in a Wallabies backrow that features the return of flanker David Pocock. New Zealand-based Pete Samu was selected on the Wallabies bench.
Paenga-Amosa, who was born in New Zealand and raised in western Sydney, has had a rapid rise to international rugby after being picked up by the Reds this season following an impressive performance in the last National Rugby Championship competition.
He worked as a trash collector for eight months after finishing school in Sydney and before studying theology. He was playing Sydney club rugby for Southern Districts at this time last year before getting a professional Super Rugby contract.
Paenga-Amosa will pack down in the front row between 91-test veteran Sekope Kepu and Scott Sio. Tolu Latu will be his backup on the bench.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said Paenga-Amosa's consistency and work-rate with the Reds earned him a shot at the test spot that was vacant after Stephen Moore retired, Tatafu Polota-Nau took time off, and Jordan Uelese was injured.
"He's stepped right up to the mark and I trust him to go out there and do the job," Cheika said.
No. 2-ranked Ireland will also have an inexperienced hooker after Rob Herring was selected to start ahead of Sean Cronin in the absence of injured skipper Rory Best, who guided the Irish to an undefeated Six Nations title.
Veteran flyhalf Johnny Sexton was relegated to the bench to allow Joey Carbery to start a test match for just the third time.
Those were among six changes coach Joe Schmidt made to the Ireland side that beat England to clinch the Grand Slam in March.
Props Jack McGrath and John Ryan will join Herring in an all-new front row and Jordi Murphy will start on the openside flank. Blindside flanker Peter O'Mahony will take over the captaincy.
Australia: Israel Folau, Marika Koroibete, Samu Kerevi, Kurtley Beale, Dane Haylett-Petty, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Caleb Timu, Michael Hooper (captain), David Pocock, Adam Coleman, Izack Rodda, Sekope Kepu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Scott Sio. Reserves: Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Tui, Pete Samu, Nick Phipps, Reece Hodge.
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; C.J. Stander, Jordi Murphy, Peter O'Mahony, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, John Ryan, Rob Herring, Jack McGrath. Reserves: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Quinn Roux, Jack Conan, Kieran Marmion, Johnny Sexton, Jordan Larmour.