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Cheika backs new-look Wallabies

AAP logoAAP 20/10/2016 Darren Walton

Michael Cheika is urging his underdog Wallabies to seize the moment after unveiling an exciting new backline for Saturday's face-saving Bledisloe Cup chance against the all-conquering All Blacks.

Mercurial playmaker Quade Cooper has been dumped to the bench and Bernard Foley restored to five-eighth to accommodate Reece Hodge's strength and skills in his preferred inside centre position.

Hodge will form a raw midfield pairing with fellow first-year international Samu Kerevi, with Fiji-born flyer Henry Speight replacing Hodge on the wing for his first Test start of 2016.

With in-form Will Genia returning to French club rugby, Nick Phipps got the nod over Nick Frisby as the starting halfback as the Wallabies bid to break a 30-year hoodoo at Eden Park and deny the All Blacks a world-record 18th consecutive Test win.

"I just wanted to have a look at a different feel for this game, a few different ideas," Cheika said after announcing the four changes to his side that beat Argentina 32-21 a fortnight ago at Twickenham.

"Testing new ideas in the biggest stage sometimes, some people might not think is the right time but I think that's the place where you see if it is something that can really work in the future."

But believing the future is also the here and now, Cheika has every faith that his renovated Wallabies can reverse a record-breaking 42-8 defeat in Sydney and 29-9 loss in Wellington and score one of the great Test upsets on Saturday.

Apart from winning their past 16 matches against Australia at New Zealand rugby's graveyard, the All Blacks haven't been conquered at Eden Park by any opposition since 1994.

"You'd be blind to not see we haven't done very well here over a fair while," Cheika acknowledged.

"But if you don't have the dream or conception inside that you can go out there and do it, it's never going to happen.

"So we come over here with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and belief in the team.

"Me personally, I love going into the Lion's Den. That's the fun and that's what rugby's about: going into the tough contests and getting in there and getting stuck into it and doing your absolute best.

"We'll see where the cards fall after that. There's no trepidation, more excitement."

In contrast to his backline reshuffle, Cheika opted for an unchanged forward pack, resisting the temptation to rush back-row star David Pocock in his starting line-up after a month out with a hand injury.

"He's ready to make a contribution, so we think it'd be nice, as part of the finishing team, to come on," Cheika said.

"Eighty minutes is always so important against New Zealand, being on all the time because they strike whenever you're not on and having a player of that experience coming on in the back part of the game - and that quality - will help us stay at the level we'll need to be to stay in the contest."

In addition to retaining Lopeti Timani at No.8, Cheika stuck with locks Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold to team up against the All Blacks for the first time.

BLEDISLOE CUP III - AT A GLANCE

Head to head: Played 157, New Zealand 108, Australia 42, draws 7

At Eden Park, Auckland: Played 27, New Zealand 23, Australia 4

Last time in Auckland: New Zealand 41 bt Australia 13, August 15, 2013

Wallabies: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Samu Kerevi, Reece Hodge, Henry Speight, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Lopeti Timani, Michael Hooper, Dean Mumm, Adam Coleman, Rory Arnold, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (capt), Scott Sio. Reserves: James Hanson, Tom Robertson, Allan Ala'alatoa, Rob Simmons, David Pocock, Nick Frisby, Quade Cooper, Sefa Naivalu.

Coach: Michael Cheika

NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read (capt), Matt Todd, Jerome Kaino, Samuel Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa.

Coach: Steve Hansen

Referee: Nigel Owens (WAL)

Kick-off: 5.35pm AEDT, Eden Park, Auckland

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