WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Australia coach Michael Cheika has kept faith with the team that produced a record victory over the All Blacks last weekend and made only one injury-enforced change for Saturday’s second Bledisloe Cup test at Eden Park.
The 47-26 victory over the All Blacks last Saturday in Perth gives the Wallabies a chance to hold aloft the symbol of trans-Tasman Sea supremacy for the first time since 2002.
Adam Coleman moves up from the bench to replace the injured Rory Arnold in the second row with Rob Simmons coming into the matchday 23 as lock cover.
Arnold suffered a hand injury in last week’s and was replaced by Coleman in the 55th minute, although the Wallabies did not lose any of the aggression that laid the foundation for the victory.
In other changes to the bench, uncapped loose forward Liam Wright looks set for his test debut while 35-year-old outside back Adam Ashley-Cooper gets a chance to press for a trip to a fourth World Cup. Luke Jones and Tom Banks missed out.
The Wallabies only need to draw on Saturday to regain the Bledisloe Cup but have not beaten New Zealand at Eden Park since 1986.
Injured loose forward David Pocock was left out of the 23-man squad despite training with the Wallabies in Melbourne this week.
The 31-year-old has not played since March due to a calf injury and although Cheika said last week he would be available for Saturday’s match, Australia are clearly taking no chances with him ahead of the World Cup.
The Wallabies back row has looked more balanced without Pocock with number eight Isa Naisarani and blindside flanker Lukhan Salakaia-Loto complementing captain and openside flanker Michael Hooper.
The Wallabies used Naisarani and Salakaia-Loto to punch over the advantage line last week in Perth and the latter’s experience at lock helped them dominate the lineout.
Cheika also retained James O’Connor at centre after the 29-year-old impressed with his distribution and deceptive running in his first appearance at test level in the number 13 jersey.
The form of scrumhalf Nic White, who was man-of-the-match last week, has again kept veteran Will Genia on the bench.
Australia: 15-Kurtley Beale, 14-Reece Hodge, 13-James O’Connor, 12-Samu Kerevi, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Christian Lealiifano, 9-Nic White, 8-Isi Naisarani, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5-Adam Coleman, 4-Izack Rodda, 3-Allan Alaalatoa, 2-Tolu Latu, 1-Scott Sio
Replacements: 16-Folau Fainga’a, 17-James Slipper, 18-Taniela Tupou, 19-Rob Simmons, 20-Liam Wright, 21-Will Genia, 22-Matt Toomua, 23-Adam Ashley-Cooper
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)