Wallabies rejig backline for third Bledisloe

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

 The Wallabies backline has been given a major rejig for the third Bledisloe Test, though it's one in which the players will feel right at home.

Wallabies coach MIchael Cheika has moved to start Reece Hodge at his preferred inside centre spot for the first time, teaming up with Bernard Foley, who was the Wallabies regular starting flyhalf until the Wellington Bledisloe Test almost two months ago.

Reece Hodge made his debut on Saturday. Photo: Getty ImagesDefence coach Nathan Grey endorsed Hodge as an inside centre option before the Wallabies flew to Auckland on Thursday.

“His skill set, he's a big body, he carries the ball very well and he's got a good passing game that he uses and he's got good speed, so all those attributes are very positive to have in a 12,” he said.

“He defends there, in at 12 anyway for us, so he's used to being in that environment.”

Quade Cooper has been dropped to the bench to make way for Foley to return to his usual playmaking spot.

The moves open the door for a specialist winger to come into the starting XV, with Henry Speight the man chosen to fill that role, in his first Test start since the Wallabies' 65-3 win over Uruguay in last year's World Cup.

Foley will have a familiar man inside him as well, with Nick Phipps starting at halfback after Will Genia's return to France.

Lopeti Timani has also held on to his spot, the mammoth number eight starting at the back of the scrum, with David Pocock coming off the bench.

Pocock has trained fully this week after a month out with a broken hand, but Cheika has opted for a more traditional back row structure, in a move away from the dual opensides the Wallabies have fielded over the past year, when Pocock or Sean McMahon have been available.

Rory Arnold is hoping for more Test opportunities. Photo: Getty ImagesCheika has stuck with his rookie pairing of Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman in the second row, while veteran Rob Simmons will sit on the pine.

Tevita Kuridrani has dropped out of the 23 for the first time this season, with Sefa Naivalu, Quade Cooper and Nick Frisby making up the backs reserves.

Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore overtakes George Smith as the fourth-most capped Wallaby in his 112th Test. 

Australia will take on New Zealand in an Eden Park double header on Saturday, starting with the Wallaroos-Black Ferns match kicking off at 3:05pm AEDT, with the Bledisloe Cup starting at 5:35pm AEDT, both LIVE on FOX SPORTS.

See the Wallaroos' team for their match here.

See New Zealand's Bledisloe team here.

IN: Henry Speight, Sefa Naivalu, Rob Simmons, David Pocock, Nick Frisby

OUT: Tevita Kuridrani, Kane Douglas, Scott Fardy, Leroy Houston, Will Genia,

Wallabies team

1. Scott Sio (24 Tests)

2. Stephen Moore (c) (111 Tests)

3. Sekope Kepu (72 Tests)

4. Rory Arnold (5 Tests)

5. Adam Coleman (6 Tests)

6. Dean Mumm (52 Tests)

7. Michael Hooper (60 Tests)

8. Lopeti Timani (2 Tests)

9. Nick Phipps (47 Tests)

10. Bernard Foley (36 Tests)

11. Henry Speight (5 Tests)

12. Reece Hodge (5 Tests)

13. Samu Kerevi (7 Tests)

14. Dane Haylett-Petty (9 Tests)

15. Israel Folau (47 Tests)


16. James Hanson (11 Tests)

17. Tom Robertson (3 Tests)

18. Allan Alaalatoa (4 Tests)

19. Rob Simmons (65 Tests)

20. David Pocock (60 Tests)

21. Nick Frisby (2 Tests)

22. Quade Cooper (63 Tests)

23. Sefa Naivalu (1 Test)