Eden Park Wallabies just different

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies who will line up at Eden Park on Saturday night aren’t better or worse than those faced Argentina a fortnight ago, Michael Cheika says they’re simply different.

Cheika has pulled some surprises in his backline, with Bernard Foley starting at flyhalf, Reece Hodge at 12 and Henry Speight on the wing.

Quade Cooper has limited opportunities on Saturday night. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Wallabies coach dismissed the notion that one group, especially in the Foley vs Cooper scenario,  was fundamentally superior, rather that if new-look combinations showed promise under the most intense pressure, then they're probably worth pursuing.

“Maybe it’s not about whether Bernard was a better option than Quade but more about the combination changing, just to look at something different,” he said.

“I just wanted to look at a different feel for this game, a few different ideas.

“I think testing new ideas on the biggest stage sometimes, some people may not think is the right time,  but I think that's the place where you'll see if it really is something that can work in the future.”

Cheika’s moves do return players to their specialist spots, something the backline has seen little of this season, particularly on the wings and Speight’s return to the edge could be one of the more impactful selections, in his first Test in a year.

“He brings a certain set of skills too. He's an out and out winger- an area where NZ are very strong,” he said.

“He's another piece of the puzzle too, it's not just the 10s, 12s and all that.”

The Wallabies will have some weapons to come off the bench as well, with David Pocock on the pine, along with electric winger Sefa Naivalu.

David Pocock has gone for scans. Photo: Getty ImagesCheika said Pocock’s injection into the game could be critical this weekend, against an unrelenting All Blacks side.

“It’s nice to have him as part of a finishing team to come on,” he said.

“That 80 minutes it's so important against New Zealand, being on all the time because they strike whenever you’re not on and having a player of that experience coming on in the back part of the game and that quality will help us stay at the level we need to be to stay in the contest.”

Steve Hansen has brushed off critism from England coach Eddie Jones. Photo: Getty ImagesAll Blacks coach Steve Hansen made some accurate predictions about the Wallabies side when he spoke on Thursday, suggesting Cooper would be dropped for Foley and Hodge would play in the midfield, but Cheika laughed off the potential of anything more than good guessing.

“It’s a pretty standard thing to have a look at that combination,” he said.

“I've wanted to for a bit but I've thought the other combination's been working pretty well but I'll thought I'll take the opportunity to do that and see how it goes.”

The Wallabies take on New Zealand on Saturday, kicking off at 5:35pm AEDT, following the Wallaroos-Black Ferns clash at 3:05pm AEDT, both LIVE on FOXSPORTS 502