Back row forced Cheika to change his selection views

by staff

Traditional is not an adjective that comes to mind when talking about Wallabies coach, Michael Cheika.

It’s one he almost visibly cringed at using in a press conference on Thursday, but he had to part with his own conventional wisdom to create the Wallabies’ potent Pocock-Hooper combination.

It was the destruction the pair wielded in Australia’s opening Bledisloe win that cemented the necessity to have the pair start together, Cheika said.

“I think that’s fair enough to say,” he said.

“I’d probably be a bit more traditionalist in the way I’d set up the back row with a different type of blindside flanker but the two lads they’ve played too well for me not to select them together.”

“Just because they’re certain ideas that I might have (doesn’t mean) I shouldn’t be open to change on that front.

“I think that the two games they’ve both played together, they’ve not just played well individually they’ve combined well together.”

Cheika said while the duo were the ones often discussed, their connection with each other as well as blindside Scott Fardy was the prevailing factor in his decision to start both open sides.

“That’s the important part - being able to select complementary groups of players, whether they’re back rowers or back three, that they complement each other both in character and in play," he said.

“I feel that’s the case with these two guys and it makes me feel comfortable to select them.”

The Wallabies have returned to the starting XV from their opening match against Fiji for Saturday’s Twickenham showdown with England, with prop Scott Sio the only player to stat across all three games.

Cheika said while there was room for flexibility depending on performances, things continue to be part of a long standing plan.

“We set out with an original plan that we wanted to run with,” he said.

“The performances then have to go with that idea and I think that has happened.

There were a few tough selection decisions across the board around what would be the best mix to start the match.

“But we felt that the team who played in the first game did a good job and understood the improvements it needs to make and has been working on that in the lead up to this game and decided to stick with it.”

In London, fronting one of the largest media contingents in their tournament, the Wallabies continued to attempt to keep things low key, with Cheika not buying into any mudslinging.

Cheika was dismissive when asked about whether the possibility of England being knocked out of their home World Cup in the pool stages, at the Wallabies’ hands.

“if you’re playing for that reason then you haven’t got a real reason why you’re playing for yourself,” he said.

“Those external motivations like that that you talk about and it’s often said, they last for about two minutes on the field.

“When you’re going to go through 80 minutes of warfare, you need bigger motivations than that.

Those other things are relatively peripheral, they’re relatively superficial and they dissipate very quickly when there’s 82,000 English people screaming at you in a stadium.”