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Wallabies not playing mind games: Cheika

AAP logoAAP 21/10/2016 Angelo Risso

AUCKLAND, Oct 21 NZN - The Wallabies have denied playing mind games with the All Blacks after delaying the naming of their side until the eve of Saturday's third Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland.

Coach Michael Cheika announced his match-day squad at midday local time on Friday, some 24 hours after it is typically named.

A host of changes were made for the encounter at Eden Park, with first five-eighth Quade Cooper dropped to the bench and Reece Hodge moved to his favoured role at second-five.

Gun loose forward David Pocock has also returned to the side after a hand injury, starting on the bench.

The move is yet another chapter in the often rancorous relationship between Cheika and All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen throughout 2016.

The pair have thrown jabs and counter-punches at each other throughout, including Hansen's suggestion that England coach Eddie Jones bullied Cheika in the media.

Cheika responded at the time by labelling Hansen as "shallow", and later accused Hansen of a pre-match meeting with the referee before the second Bledisloe in Wellington.

However the Wallabies boss told reporters on Friday the move to delay the side's naming was not intended as a form of gamesmanship.

Rather, it was due to injuries sustained in training on Tuesday and Thursday.

"We've had a few little niggles we wanted to get solved, and we asked back at our HQ and they told us we could do it Friday," Cheika said.

"We're not trying to cause a stir. We just wanted to make sure we announce the right team."

Hansen correctly predicted to Kiwi reporters on Thursday that Cheika would drop Cooper, who has typically struggled in the Eden Park cauldron, and name two burly midfielders.

He felt that would give the Wallabies more attacking thrust after struggling to break down the world champions in their first two Bledisloe Tests, which they lost 42-8 and 29-9.

Cheika shot back, joking that the All Blacks boss must have had an inside source after the bug found at the Kiwi side's Sydney hotel was removed.

"He must have known somehow but I'm not sure," Cheika said.

"The bug's gone now, we stayed in Double Bay and had a bit of a broom around and couldn't find any."

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