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Kellaway OUT, leaving Petaia at No.15 and Dave Rennie with a big decision over league recruit

Dave Rennie has lost his two preferred fullbacks ahead of the second Test ,with Andrew Kellaway injured in training and ruled out of the match at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

Jordan Petaia will be named in the No.15 jersey when Rennie announces his 23 around 1pm AEST Thursday.

Kellaway has a hamstring injury and is therefore in major doubt for the third Test as well. Rennie already lost Quade Cooper to the calf injury that kept him out of the first Test and his first choice fullback Tom Banks to a broken arm in the gutsy 30-28 win in Perth.

Banks is out for months and Cooper is unlikely to play again until after the England Tests. Rennie is likely to be boosted by the return of Taniela Tupou – a welcome relief with Allan Alaalatoa ruled out due to the concussion suffered last weekend.

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Kellaway was moved to fullback in Perth with Petaia coming onto the wing after Banks’ agonising departure and the pair combined superbly for a decisive try to the Queenslander.

Rennie will have every confidence in Petaia to fulfill the role – having argued long and hard that he wanted to see him used at No.15 by Brad Thorn at the Reds – but Kellaway’s absence leaves the coach with a massive call as he mulls the make-up of his starting team and bench.

It seems a crucial moment in the international career of Suliasi Vunivalu, the rugby league convert who Rennie has kept in camp instead of sending to Fiji with Australia A.

Andrew Kellaway of Austalia is seen during a Wallabies training session at Peffermill Sports Fields on November 03, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Andrew Kellaway. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Brumbies’ Tom Wright is the other in the frame to come onto the wing, but there’s a school of thought that he would be a better bench option, because of his ability to cover positions that Vunivalu just can’t manage.

The big Reds winger also lacks a Test level kicking game, much like Marika Koroibete on the other wing, but Rennie might feel he gets enough of that from Samu Kerevi and Len Ikitau along with Nic White and Noah Lolesio.

Rennie has brought utility back Reece Hodge home from Fiji but he’s a known quantity at Test level.

Vunivalu, on the other hand, has a short learning curve into the World Cup. If he’s impressed Rennie at all in camp over the past fortnight, and the coach feels he can trust him, then there may be no better time to give him a debut.

If Rennie opts against him, it does raise questions about Vunivalu’s international future, although the coach has made it clear he views Vunivalu as a project player.

“It’s not so much about capping Suli,” Rennie said when he named the former Melbourne Storm star in his 35-man squad.

“We’ve picked him because he has massive potential, we think we can accelerate his development within the camp rather than leaving him outside of that.

“He’s had his troubles with injury, we’ve seen glimpses of real quality and we’re just keen to get our hands on him and accelerate that.”

Suliasi Vunivalu poses for a photo before an Australian Wallabies training session on June 21, 2022 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Suliasi Vunivalu poses for a photo before an Australian Wallabies training session. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Rennie is losing fullbacks at the same rate Spinal Tap lost drummers. Kurtley Beale is two months away from being fit enough for consideration.

Beale was full of praise for Kellaway’s performance in Perth.

“No doubt, Kellaway stepped up,” Beale said this week. “I thought he did brilliantly. I think those couple of classy touches, that try for Jordy, those hands were very silky. He’s been in and around the group, he’s steady and he’s succeeding but I’ll be doing everything I can to create an environment and the competition to make it better.

“Like a lot of the other guys who have come in, they’ve set the bar high and that’s how we want it, we want to keep pushing ourselves to be the best because we’re playing the best – the Springboks, All Blacks and we’ve got a big task ahead with England on the weekend.”

Meanwhile, there have been questions raised over the ability of Rennie to bring in a third overseas player to replace Cooper as one of the three allowed OS options.

A Wallabies spokesman told The Roar that the situation was fluid – suggesting there is no rule preventing a fourth call up for the series – but added it wasn’t at all likely an overseas player (such as Rory Arnold or Will Skelton) would be brought in as cover with just the third Test to play after this weekend.

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