Samu Kerevi is set to return to the arena that played host to his greatest Wallabies performance after Dave Rennie revealed the Japanese connection which convinced him to recall the star centre.
Just over two years have passed since Kerevi played an integral part in the Wallabies’ record-breaking 47-26 win against the All Blacks at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
A devastating Kerevi run – in which he beat Aaron Smith and crashed straight through Beauden Barrett to set up Nic White – may have proved the star centre’s career highlight at Test level but the absence of Hunter Paisami this week has opened the door for a return.
He will earn a recall after Paisami rushed back to Brisbane to be with his pregnant partner, who is due to give birth at the start of next month.
Kerevi may never have even received a call if it wasn’t for Suntory assistant coach Jason O’Halloran, who worked under Rennie at Glasgow Warriors.
“He’s been excellent. Like Quade [Cooper], he’s an experienced man who’s contributing really well,” Rennie said when asked about the first impression Kerevi has made.
“There is a fair bit to get your head around, of course, and he’s been excellent. He’s obviously played over at Suntory. A good mate of mine, Jason O’Halloran, coaches over there.
“He gave me some really positive feedback around Samu’s preparation and the detail around trying to be better each day and we are seeing evidence of that in our squad.”
While playing under Michael Cheika, Kerevi’s playmaking ability was constantly questioned.
Rennie has seen enough development in that part of his game to suggest he can replace Paisami, who has the ability to run, pass and kick and was marked by the coach as a key part of the Wallabies’ attack.
Samu Kerevi at the 2019 World Cup.Credit:Stuart Walmsley/Rugby AU Media
“I know he’s done a lot of work on that at Suntory,” Rennie said.
“He’s certainly worked on his kicking game and his distribution and as you know, he can be direct.
“He has the ability to offload beyond the tackle and I know he’s worked really hard on the defensive side of his game.”
Kerevi will be a familiar face in the squad Rennie names on Thursday, but the second year coach also revealed a rookie is on the cusp of his first Test cap.
Feleti Kaitu’u has replaced Jordan Uelese in the squad. The Force hooker suffered an injury just a few days after joining the squad ahead of the France series but has recovered and is available for selection.
“Feleti was an original part of our squad and got injured really early, unfortunately. It’s been a long road to recovery,” Rennie said.
“When we were in Brisbane, we sent him back here to quarantine in the hope he might be available for the All Blacks Test played here. We brought Jordy in as a replacement.
“Now that Feleti is right, Jordy has exited and Feleti has joined us this week.”
Kaitu’u is available for selection, but James O’Connor’s run with injuries has continued.
He will join the squad when the group fly to Queensland on Monday but is an unlikely starter in the September 12 clash against the Springboks.
Meanwhile, Rennie doubled down on his criticism of the All Blacks and New Zealand Rugby after they refused to board a flight bound for Perth late last week.
“We’re not necessarily using it as motivation,” Rennie said.
“A lot of the disappointment for us is what we knew is that The Rugby Championship would be played somewhere in the world on the 12th of September.
“The All Blacks committed to play us originally on the 21st, then on the 28th, and had they come over here – what we knew is that on the 29th, we were all jumping on a plane and heading somewhere in the world.
“Whether that was Brisbane, whether that was South Africa, whether that was the UK.
“From that perspective, we felt they should have got on the plane, come over and filled their commitments.”
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