The Wallabies will attempt to combat Wales’ physical approach at the breakdown with a new-look, workaholic back row that reunites the David Pocock-Michael Hooper partnership.
But rather than in the No.8 jersey he’s come to call his own or his preferred openside flanker role, Pocock will slot in at blindside following the one-week suspension of incumbent No.6 Dean Mumm.
That allows the imposing Lopeti Timani to be retained at the back of the scrum, while young Waratah Tolu Latu is in line to make his debut after supplanting James Hanson as the hooking option off the bench.
Veteran James Slipper has earned a recall to possibly add to his 82 Tests, with rookie Tom Robertson dropping out of the match-day 23.
Coach Michael Cheika also resisted the calls to switch misfiring fullback Israel Folau – on a career-long seven-game tryless run – to outside centre, opting for the experienced Tevita Kuridrani to fill the boots of Samu Kerevi, whose ankle injury forced him out of the European tour.
Leigh Halfpenny will make his first Wales start since September 2015 against Australia in Cardiff on Saturday.
Rookie centre Reece Hodge holds his spot at No.12 for Saturday’s Spring Tour opener in Cardiff (1.35am Sunday AEDT), while Henry Speight will again start on the wing after a strong showing against the All Blacks.
Cheika said he opted for the indefatigable Pocock ahead of World Cup favourite Scott Fardy and rugged Rebels young gun Sean McMahon due to the pressure Wales were expected to bring at the breakdown.
“We’re going to try to play attacking footy so we’re going to have to work quite hard,” Cheika said.
“Those two boys (Hooper and Pocock) are playing in a slightly different role, but they can share a bit of the openside work if they want to and do things a bit differently.
“I just think that’s the right call. (A) like-for-like (selection) would’ve been going with Fardy but I think Pocock has got qualities that we want to use in this game.”
While Cheika expects the absence of the 196cm Mumm will prove troubling in the lineout, he says Timani will take on more responsibility in that area and the selection is a vote of confidence in the 117kg powerhouse.
With the unavailability of halfback Will Genia, who has again not been released by French club Stade Francais for the outside-the-international-window Test, Nick Phipps has again won the No.9 jersey as he did against New Zealand last start.
Assistant coach Nathan Gray expressed his disappointment at not being able to call on Genia, but said it hadn’t had a drastic impact on the week as the team were quite prepared to be without their star playmaker.
“It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is – we’ll push on,” Grey said.
Wallabies: Israel Folau; Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Reece Hodge, Henry Speight; Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; Lopeti Timani, Michael Hooper, David Pocock; Adam Coleman, Rory Arnold; Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (capt), Scott Sio. Reserves: Tolu Latu, James Slipper, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Nick Frisby, Quade Cooper, Sefa Naivalu.
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/17960867/michael-cheika-names-new-look-backrow-pocock-blindside
Cheika deploys new look backrow
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY