Cheika wants the best of both worlds with Hooper Pocock combo

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was pretty blunt when explaining the decision to select both Michael Hooper and David Pocock for the Wallabies’ World Cup opener.

“It’s pretty hard not to pick one of them,” he said.

“I’m not trying to claim there’s any brilliant rocket science behind it.

“You've just got two very good players and the way they've played throughout the Super Rugby season and in the international season either together or separately has forced the coach's hands.”

The pair were devastating against the All Blacks starting together in the opening Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney, before Wycliff Palu replaced Pocock at number eight for the Eden Park decider.

Pocock said he was looking forward to combining with Hooper once more.

“I’m very excited about the opportunities I have to play alongside Michael,” he said.

“In the Rugby Championship, I really enjoyed it so hopefully we can make that partnership work.”

The only concern around their selection through the four-nation Rugby Championship had been the impact on their line out but lock Rob Simmons said they had plenty of time to hone that combination.

Australia's lineout suffered in the absence of Simmons through the back half of the Rugby Championships with a wrist injury but he returned for the Test against the USA and will team up with future Reds teammate Kane Douglas on Thursday morning (AEST)

“We’ve trained with these combinations for a while now, so we’re prepared for the way we need to play and I don’t think it will really make too much of an impact (on my game)," he said.

Regardless of the combinations, Cheika promised the Wallabies would continue to place a premium on attack in the World Cup but disputed the prevalent thought that attack meant high-pace.

“We understand there’s got to be a balance between set pieces and all our work there.

“Our intent is to be an attacking side, it’s part of our identity and we definitely want to use every opportunity we play for Australia to show that and the World Cup is no different .

“We're not going to change our ways because we’re playing in a World Cup.”

While the team to face Fiji has the look of the Wallabies’ strongest World Cup outfit, Cheika maintained it wasn’t an indicator of who would line up against England and Wales.

Cheika has already said the side would be entirely different for the second match against minnows Uruguay on Sunday, paving the way for Quade Cooper to play flyhalf and the depth of the wings to be tested as well.

“We’ve trained with this type of combination or something similar since all the way through the Rugby Championship,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean anything for the next game. Our only focus is on what we’re going to try to get out of today.”