Wallaby Watch: The key match-ups for Super Rugby Pacific round two

Fri, Mar 3, 2023, 3:02 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
The Wallabies travelled to Cardiff for their final Spring Tour match of 2022.

'Wallaby Watch' is a new series looking at the players who are starting to make an impact on Super Rugby Pacific ahead of September's World Cup.

New coach Eddie Jones will be keeping a keen eye on the action as players test themselves against some of the best in the world.

The fight for positions has never been hotter and with Super Rugby converging on Melbourne for Super Round, it shapes as the perfect destination for hopefuls to make their name.

With this in mind, here are five individual match-ups to watch for.

1. Reece Hodge v Jordie Barrett

We start on Friday with the hosts Rebels taking on a Hurricanes outfit full of confidence after a strong victory over the Queensland Reds.

Both men are making the shift from fullback, with Hodge slotting in alongside Stacey Ili after spending the majority of 2022 at the back.

Hodge will have his work cut out to stop Barrett, who is looking to impress All Blacks selectors after making the switch towards the end of the International season.

Other match-ups to watch out for are in the front-row as Wallabies props Matt Gibbon and Sam Talakai face Xavier Numia and Tyrle Lomax.

2. Dave Porecki v Tevita Ikanivere

Porecki will be feeling the pressure to perform as a number of hookers start to make their push towards the gold jersey.

The breakout Wallaby will be eager to put a rusty performance behind him as he faces last week's hero Tevita Ikanivere.

Ikanivere finished the game with a double as he continues to lead from the front.

Also, keep an eye out for Langi Gleeson going up against Te Ahiwararu Cirikidaveta after Gleeson's physical performance from the bench.

3. Izaia Perese v Iosefo Masi

Two excitement machines going head-to-head

Perese is continuing his return from a nasty knee injury in an attempt to re-establish his spot in a highly-competitive centres group.

As for Masi, he showcased his talent with a blistering display against Moana Pasifika and the former Olympic gold medalist will be out to prove it wasn't a one-off.

In the backs, shutting down Kalaveti Ravouvou will be key for Lalakai Foketi whilst Mark Nawaqanitawase and Selestino Ravutaumada are both game-breakers on the wing.

4. Hamish Stewart v Hunter Paisami

A pair of 12s with a point to prove.

Stewart has flagged his intentions to move to flyhalf but with the way he played last week, it'll be tough for him to get his wish given just how dominant he was.

He goes up against a former teammate in Hunter Paisami, who provides his own force on defence via some brutal one-on-tackles.

Meanwhile, Harry Wilson going up against Michael Wells is a battle of contrasting styles whilst it will be interesting to see how Suliasi Vunivalu returns on the wing.

5. Tom Wright v Stephen Perofeta

The match of the round and a fun match-up at fullback.

Wright was one of the Brumbies' best against the Waratahs, making the seamless transition from the wing.

Meanwhile, Perofeta was the breakout star for the Blues in 2022 and found himself making his debut for the All Blacks late in the year.

Both teams are stacked with Test talent, with Patrick Tuipulotu v Nick Frost, Hoskins Sotutu v Pete Samu and Rieko Ioane v Len Ikitau some of the highlights to look forward to