White to start against All Blacks
By Mark Stevens
The on-field field reunion of Wallabies halves Nic White and Christian Lealiifano for the Bledisloe Cup showdown with the All Blacks was one they doubted would ever happen.
The former Brumbies team-mates have both overcome their own challenges to start for the first time together in a Test as they try to stop New Zealand in Perth tomorrow.
White has ousted Test veteran Will Genia to wear the No.9 jersey at Optus Stadium while Lealiifano has won the five-eighth role ahead of Bernard Foley.
After five years playing together in Canberra a disillusioned White took his rugby career to Europe at the end of 2015 while Lealiifano faced a battle with leukaemia that threatened more than his playing days.
White returned this year to chase his World Cup dream while Lealiifano played his first Test in three years when he helped the Wallabies beat Argentina 20-16 last month.
White said the pair had spoken about playing together again but didn’t think it was likely.
“It is (surreal),” White said. “It’s something we spoke about before I’d even come back (to Australia) and we didn’t think we’d play together.
“We’re obviously pretty close off the field and talking to him (Lealiifano), I told him I can’t really put it into words. t’s pretty special, on the back of what he’s gone through, to be able to play with each other again.”
He said they would push sentiment aside to focus on the challenge of a rare Bledisloe Cup win.
White was part of a 27-19 victory in Sydney in 2015, and memorably scored a try.
But he didn’t need to be reminded about what happened in the return match in Auckland a week later when they went down 41-13.
“I drew a bit of confidence but also went over to Auckland a week later and copped a bit of a hiding so also saw the other side of the sword. They’re a great team, but it’s four years on now so it’s very different.”
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale; 14 Reece Hodge, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11-Marika Koroibete; 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nic White; 1 Scott Sio; 2 Tolu Latu, 3 Allan Alaalatoa; 4 Izack Rodda, 5 Rory Arnold; 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 7 Michael Hooper (capt), 8 Isi Naisarani
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Luke Jones, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Tom Banks.