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Hooper, Pocock to start against England

2015-10-01 20:53
Michael Cheika (Gallo)

London - Australia coach Michael Cheika has backed the Wallabies to match England in the physicality stakes in Saturday's crunch Rugby World Cup meeting after naming twin open-side flankers in his line-up for the match.

Australia will field David Pocock and Michael Hooper in the back row together for the third time this year in the Twickenham clash after Cheika reverted to the starting line-up from the opening 28-13 victory over Fiji.

"There were a fair few tough selection decisions across the board about what would be the best mix to start the match," Cheika told reporters on Thursday.

"But we felt the team who played in the first game did a good job and also understood the improvements that needed to be made in the lead-up to this game. We decided to stick with it."

While the Pocock-Hooper partnership should give Australia an advantage over England's less mobile back row, it could compromise the Wallabies at the set piece and in the tight exchanges where they have so often been second best in the past.

It was an area that was exposed in Cheika's first match in charge against England last November, when number eight Ben Morgan ran in two tries as the hosts won 26-17. It has been a key focus of his work with the Wallabies since.

He will be looking for big games from second-row enforcer Kane Douglas, rushed back into the squad after his return from Leinster, and blindside flanker Scott Fardy to repel the English forwards.

"Most people forget about his name but Fardy's actually playing in there as well and he's doing a very good job," Cheika said.

"He tries to get noticed. He grows his beard as long as he can so someone pays attention to him. But he's doing a great job in the middle of that back row."

Loosehead prop Scott Sio, the only player in the team who also started the 65-3 win over Uruguay, will be looking for a performance in the scrum similar to that he produced against All Blacks when Australia beat the world champions in August.

Cheika was forced to change at least one of his replacements from the Fiji match after lock Will Skelton was ruled out of the rest of the World Cup with a pectoral injury this week.

It was no surprise that the spot was awarded to heavyweight Ben McCalman, who can provide cover across the back row.


15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper,  6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Scott Sio

Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale

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