Attack on table as Cheika shows hand
WALLABIES coach Michael Cheika has left no one in doubt about his game plan against the All Blacks tomorrow night, naming champion flankers Michael Hooper and David Pocock in the starting side together for the first time in their Test careers.
Cheika has also elevated prop Scott Sio to the run-on side in place of James Slipper, while mobile lock Dean Mumm will start in place of Will Skelton who drops back to the bench after being in the XV for the past two Rugby Championship matches against South Africa and Argentina.
Inside centre Matt Giteau returns from a sternum injury suffered against the Springboks, while winger Drew Mitchell gets his first starting opportunity with the Wallabies this campaign.
The changes clearly suggest Cheika wants his players to take it to the experienced All Blacks who have 1051 Test caps in their squad, and an average age of 27.
The coach said he had been extremely impressed by Sio since he had come into the Wallabies environment, and was also happy he had worked out a way to get Hooper and Pocock into the starting side together after they had split the duties in the No.7 jumper in the past two games.
"Australian rugby is very fortunate to have some quality flankers competing for the number seven jumper," Cheika said. "Both players have been in outstanding form for club and country this season and have shown their class in sharing the spot in the first two matches.
"They now have an opportunity to start a Test together which they are very excited about."
The selections clearly pointed to a physical, up-tempo game plan, something that wasn't lost on All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
"We are well aware that they have made improvements and that their coach wants them to be more physical and more consistent," Hansen said.
"This means we will need to bring physicality, intensity and accuracy to the occasion. I am picking this to be a brutal contest, and one we are looking forward to."
The All Blacks have also made several changes to the line-up from the come-from-behind 27-20 win against South Africa in Johannesburg two weeks ago, with champion flyhalf Dan Carter back in the No.10 jumper for what is likely to be the last time on Australian soil.
Among the forwards, Jerome Kaino will start at blindside flanker, Luke Romano at lock and prop Nepo Laulala and loose forward Sam Cane have been included on the bench.
Julian Savea is back on the left wing for his first Test of 2015, Ben Smith moves to fullback and 24-year-old Nehe Milner-Skudder will make his Test debut on the right wing.
WALLABIES: Scott Sio, Stephen Moore (c), Sekope Kepu, Dean Mumm, James Horwill, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper (v-c), David Pocock, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Tevita Kuridrani, Adam Ashley-Cooper (v-c), Israel Folau. Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Greg Holmes, Will Skelton, Ben McCalman, Nic White, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale.
ALL BLACKS: Tony Woodcock, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Aaron Smith, Daniel Carter, Julian Savea, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ben Smith. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Ben Franks, Nepo Laulala, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.