You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Cheika keeps All Blacks guessing

NZN 19/10/2016 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 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.

"But it's been good competition across the week and I think that's been a focus for 'Cheik', to keep guys interested and getting them chasing a spot.

"We need guys firing for the weekend."

Despite the Bledisloe Cup already being lost for another year, the Wallabies are desperate to break their 30-year Eden Park hoodoo.

"There's no such thing as a dead rubber in any game, any Test - not for us, not for the team we want to be," Hooper said.

"So we're so pumped for this. We're so excited to go over there and get a job done."

Australia must stop the All Blacks' juggernaut to avoid becoming the first Wallabies' outfit in 117 years of international rugby to be whitewashed 3-0 by two nations in the same season.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon