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Cheika keeps All Blacks guessing

NZN 20/10/2016 Darren Walton

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is keeping the All Blacks guessing, delaying his team naming until the eve of Saturday's Bledisloe Cup finale in Auckland.

He is weighing up the pros and cons of thrusting rookie locks Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman into the Eden Park cauldron or recalling the reliable second-row pairing of Kane Douglas and chief lineout caller Rob Simmons.

Cheika has shuffled his second row all year, mixing and matching Coleman and Arnold with Simmons, Douglas, Sam Carter and Will Skelton.

He worked Douglas and Simmons in tandem at Thursday's training session in Sydney, alternating the experienced duo with first-year internationals Coleman and Arnold.

Coleman and Arnold started in Australia's last-up win over Argentina at Twickenham but staring down the world champions for the first time together - on their home turf and at a venue where they are unbeaten against all comers since 1994 - is a whole new proposition.

Cheika is also believed to be weighing up whether to rush star loose forward David Pocock straight back into his starting line-up after a month out following hand surgery.

Lopeti Timani started at No.8 against the Pumas, but Cheika is likely to revert to a back row of Pocock, Hooper and either Scott Fardy or fellow lineout option Dean Mumm as blindside flanker.

Australia's international coach of the year is also understood to be toying with the idea of shifting Bernard Foley back to first five-eighth and bringing Reece Hodge from the wing into his preferred inside centre position.

That would leave Quade Cooper on the bench and either Henry Speight or fellow Fiji-born flyer Sefa Naivalu to start on the wing.

Israel Folau is again likely to start at fullback despite more calls for the two-time John Eales Medallist to be shifted to outside centre.

Nick Phipps is expected to replace Will Genia after the in-form halfback's return to his French club commitments, though Cheika could decide to give Nick Frisby a start.

Vice-captain Michael Hooper admits Cheika's unusual tactics have the entire Wallabies' squad on their toes and is backing whatever starting XV the coach chooses.

"It's a bit of a mystery for everyone," Hooper said before the Wallabies flew out on Thursday afternoon for Auckland.

"It's suspense for you and more suspenseful for us."

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