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Fainga'a is Wallabies fifth hooker

Recalled Wallabies rake Saia Fainga'a has attributed complacency to his freefall to No.6 in Australia's hooking ranks this season.

But the 29-cap front-rower has the hunger of a rookie again after gaining his first run-on Test start in four years against South Africa at Newlands this weekend.

The dreadlocked Fainga'a becomes the fifth man to wear the jinxed No.2 jersey in eight games thanks to his shock selection ahead of Queensland teammate James Hanson.

Hanson had appeared an automatic choice after the hooker's curse claimed Tatafu Polota-Nau (ankle) for the second time this year but Fainga'a's reliability in the scrums and lineouts was preferred against a Boks pack that unsettled the All Blacks in Wellington.

Fainga'a has lived a bench-warming existence since making his international debut in 2010, starting seven of his first 11 Tests, before sitting behind Stephen Moore and Polota-Nau for 18 straight.

Even this season, he spent much of the first half of Super Rugby matches on the pine, after losing form, and has gained his Test recall through injuries to Stephen Moore, Polota-Nau, Nathan Charles and Tolu Latu.

"It's been a while," he said on being named in the Wallabies No.2 jersey in Cape Town. "I'm really excited, I feel like a young kid again.

"Obviously this year hasn't been to my liking but it's just made me hungrier, especially for the World Cup."

Fainga'a, who had looked closely at defecting to the Melbourne Rebels or heading overseas, saw Hanson take centre stage through the Super Rugby season.

But he was often preferred to play the big South African packs and his reliable set-piece skills have won him his spurs again.

"Complacency had been the main problem for me but you work out of it," said the new father, who missed the 24-23 win over the Springboks three weeks ago to be at the birth of first child Sienna.

"To see Tatafu, Stephen Moore, and Nathan Charles go down, it breeds opportunity, and I have to take my opportunity while I'm here."

The 27-year-old is one of three changes to the starting team which overcame Argentina 32-25 on the Gold Coast, with vice-captain Adam Ashley-Cooper returning from injury and Joe Tomane edging out Rob Horne on the other wing.

Coach Ewen McKenzie has also recalled veteran prop Benn Robinson, left out of the squad for the first seven Tests of 2014, due to his experience and loose-head nous.

Saia Fainga'a


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