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Rugby Union

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Kepu's influence will be missed: Wallabies

Rising hooker Jordan Uelese has exposed the scale of the Wallabies' 2020 rebuild by showering praise on the influence of departing prop Sekope Kepu.

Eight veteran players from the Rugby World Cup squad in Japan will take up offshore contracts after the tournament, leaving a cavernous hole of depth to fill.

All eight have played played at least four seasons of Test rugby while Kepu sits above them all with 109 caps, sixth on the all-time Wallabies list and comfortably the most for any Australian prop.

Heading into potentially his last Wallabies start, against Georgia in Shizuoka on Friday, Kepu's presence has been described as a revelation by Uelese, who believes he and other young Australian front-rowers are indebted to the 33-year-old for the example he's set.

"He's been immense, ever since I joined my first Wallaby camp in 2017," said Uelese, who is 11 years younger than his mentor.

"Just the knowledge that comes with 109 Test caps is immense. His wealth of experience really rubs off on the young fellas.

"He obviously knows a lot of the opposition that we come up against too. His work off the field, his recovery, he's been great."

With coach Michael Cheika poised to revert to Allan Alaalatoa as starting tighthead for the knockout matches, Kepu looks set to play a bench role beyond this week.

It's something he has no qualms with, as long as he's involved in some way.

"In previous weeks, coming off the bench and knowing it's my last few weeks in the jersey, I've really learned to embrace every moment," he said.

"It's funny, I've had a few friends that have sort of asked me 'are you sure you want to stop and finish up here?'

"It's no disrespect to the jersey. My priority has changed a bit. I've got four kids so I've got to share time between them."

If it is to be a last start, Kepu is pleased it's coming against renowned scrummaging opponents in Georgia, who the Wallabies have never played.

He's carried out the due diligence on his front-row opposites and emerged with a succinct analysis of their strength.

"They're tough buggers and they don't really take any crap from anybody, which is fair enough," Kepu said.

DEPARTING WORLD CUP WALLABIES:

Samu Kerevi (Suntory, Japan), Bernard Foley (Kubota, Japan), Christian Lealiifano (NTT Communications, Japan), Will Genia (Kintetsu Liners, Japan), David Pocock (Panasonic, Japan), Rory Arnold (Toulouse, France), Adam Coleman (London Irish, England), Sekope Kepu (London Irish, England).

--End of article--

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