TEAM NEWS: Pocock overlooked, Coleman to start, Wright to debut for Wallabies

by Emma Greenwood

UPDATED: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says Australia cannot hide from how important the Bledisloe Cup is to its rugby success and are "hungry" to take their opportunity to lift the trophy for the first time since 2002.

Cheika named an almost unchanged side from the one that won the opening leg of the Bledisloe series in Perth last week, with just one change to his starting XV, forced by injury.

The Wallabies will have to beat a 33-year Eden Park curse to take the trophy but Cheika said it was no use pretending the opportunity did not mean anything to Australian rugby.

"The Bledisloe Cup means a lot - and it doesn't just mean a lot when you have it, it means even probably more when you don't have it," he said.

"Sometimes you defer it and say, 'we'll take the game in our stride' but that's only hiding from the fact that we know we haven't had it for a long time and we're hungry to go there and do our best and try and take the trophy.

"We know we're going to come up against an excellent opponent, who's going to be ready to go as well.

"And that's why the game is so anticiapted."

The Wallabies have decided not to roll the dice with David Pocock, with the classy flanker again left out of Australia's team to face the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup decider in Auckland on Saturday.

Coach Michael Cheika has made just one change to the XV that started in Perth last week, with Adam Coleman coming in at lock for Rory Arnold, who is carrying a hand injury.

Pocock has been recovering well from the calf injury that has ruled him out of almost the entire season but selectors have decided not to gamble on his introduction in the Bledisloe cauldron, instead calling Liam Wright on to the bench.

David Pocock works with conditioning staff at Wallabies training. Photo: Walmsley

Cheika said Pocock was agonisingly close to playing.

"It was so close, I think I called it in the end," Cheika said.

"We're close to the World Cup and another couple of weeks of getting himself loaded and I'd say we'll defintiely see him out on the field against Samoa."

Given the Samoa Test is played after the World Cup team is announced, any doubt he could miss the Japan tournament entirely given the injury has been put to bed.

Reds rookie Wright will be given his opportunity this week and Cheika backed him to fire in the Eden Park cauldron in a sign he could be a World Cup bolter.

Liam Wright has been named in the opening Wallabies squad of the year and could make his Test debut in South Africa. Photo: Walmsley

"I know he hasn't played with us but he's just been competing so hard at training we thought it was just a good opportunity for him, well deserved and a good chance to get in the game," Cheika said.

It's a meteoric rise for Wright, who only made his Super Rugby debut last year but played all but 12 minutes of the Reds' season, his on-ball workrate leading him to finish runner-up to Samu Kerevi for the Stan Pilecki Medal as Queensland's best player.

While Wright could win his first cap, he will be a member of a vastly experienced bench with Rob Simmons named after Coleman's elevation and Adam Ashley-Cooper in line to make his 118th Test appearance.

The 35-year-old will become the 16th most capped player of all time - alongside New Zealand legend Tony Woodcock and France veteran Fabien Pelous - if he takes the field on Saturday night. 

Adam Ashley-Cooper could become the 16th most capped Test player of all time if he comes off the bench against the All Blacks in Auckland. Photo: Getty Images

"Adam Ashley-Cooper, the guys h ave been trying to give everyone an opportunity and he hasn't had one as yet," Cheika said.

"He's got good experience, he's got good communication and it's going to be noisy and the heat will definitely be turned up and he's a cool cucumber out there.

"He's really hungry, he's been training hard and the opportunity in this game will suit him."

 Ashley-Cooper is amongst 474 caps of Test experience on the bench which almost matches the total caps of the starting 15 combined (531).

Saturday night's bench is the second most-capped reserve list the Wallabies have ever named for a Test match and the first time that Australia have boasted two Test centurions as replacements, with Will Genia again named in the reserves with Nic White to start his second successive Bledisloe match at no.9. 

If they are to win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002, Australia will need to break a 33-year drought at Eden Park, a fortress for the All Blacks, who are on a 42-match unbeaten streak at the venue, dating back to 1994.

Australia have lost their last 22 games in New Zealand, with their last victory coming in 2001 in Dunedin.

The Wallabies take on the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday, August 17, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST (7:35pm local) following the Wallaroos match against the Black Ferns at 3pm AEST (5pm local).

The Wallabies are LIVE on Network Ten and WIN, with both matches LIVE on Fox Sports, Kayo and via RADIO.

Adam Coleman made his return from injury off the bench against the All Blacks in Perth. Photo: Getty Images


Wallabies to face All Blacks

1. Scott Sio (57 Tests)

2. Tolu Latu (14 Tests)

3. Allan Alaalatoa (33 Tests)

4. Izack Rodda (20 Tests)

5. Adam Coleman (32 Tests)

6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (14 Tests)

7. Michael Hooper (c) (94 Tests)

8. Isi Naisarani (3 Tests)

9. Nic White (25 Tests)

10. Christian Lealiifano (21 Tests)

11. Marika Koroibete (22 Tests)

12. Samu Kerevi (vc) (28 Tests)

13. James O’Connor (46 Tests)

14. Reece Hodge (36 Tests)

15. Kurtley Beale (86 Tests)


16. Folau Fainga’a (10 Tests)

17. James Slipper (89 Tests)

18. Taniela Tupou (14 Tests)

19. Rob Simmons (96 Tests)

20. Liam Wright*

21. Will Genia (103 Tests)

22. Matt To’omua (45 Tests)

23. Adam Ashley-Cooper (117 Tests)