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Simone new Wallabies' centre of attention

Darren Walton and Melissa Woods
·2-min read

Rookie playmaker Noah Lolesio is all the talk but Wallabies coach Dave Rennie suspects his other starting debutant will be equally as influential in Saturday night's must-win Bledisloe Cup stoush with the All Blacks.

Lolesio's Brumbies teammate Irae Simone will start at inside centre, giving the Wallabies a midfield pairing with zero caps between them at ANZ Stadium.

That's compared to the 54 Tests each for injured duo Matt Toomua and James O'Connor, who started Bledisloes I and II in Wellington and Auckland.

Rennie is unfazed, adamant Lolesio and Simone can get the job done.

While 20-year-old Lolesio has captured all the headlines following his rapid rise this year, Simone has flown under the radar - but not Rennie's.

"He's been excellent. He's a great communicator and we felt we missed some opportunities at Eden Park just through a lack of talk," the coach said of the 25-year-old.

"He's really strong with and without the ball in regards to our communication.

"And, look, he's a big man; he can carry and he's got a good skill set.

"He kicks well so we're pretty excited about that and him playing outside Noah is going to help the young man.

"They've got a good combination and obviously Nic White inside him from the same club also."

Rennie said even if O'Connor was fit, Simone would have started ahead of Hunter Paisami, saying his Brumbies connection wasn't the deciding factor in his selection.

Simone will line up against All Blacks ace Jack Goodhue, in a reunion of their Auckland high school centre combination.

Simone actually played rugby league for NZ schoolboys before signing with NRL club South Sydney as an 18-year-old and declaring his allegiance to Australia.

He didn't get a run in first grade and returned to rugby, catching the eye of the Waratahs.

Starved of game time he shifted to the Brumbies ahead of the 2019 season where he really found his groove.

Goodhue was excited his old teammate was getting his first Test cap.

"We go way back, he's done awesome, he's a really good player - he's got the run, the kick, pass - but what I really like about him is the effort that he puts in," Goodhue said.

"He's come back to rugby and worked hard to get where he is and I'm really excited to play against him."

Goodhue joked that Simone wasn't always a hard worker, lumping him with the tough stuff at school.

"When we were on attack our 10 would get the ball and Irae at 13 would always call a miss (cut-out) pass and then come to defence he was always like 'Jack, he's yours, you make the tackle', and that's how it worked."