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Wallabies unleash jackals on Fiji

2015-09-21 20:52

Cardiff - Bossing the breakdown has become a crucial part of modern rugby and Australia are unleashing two masters -- Michael Hooper and David Pocock -- in their World Cup opener against Fiji on Wednesday.

The out-and-out openside flankers are first-rate "jackals" who will prey on the slightest mistake by Fiji captain Akapusi and his counterparts in the loose.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika named Hooper at openside and Pocock at No 8, with rugged Scott Fardy filling in at blindside in an impressive backrow for Wednesday's Pool A match at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

"It's pretty hard not to pick one of them," Cheika said of Pocock and Hooper, who has been described by many as the best centre in the backrow given his additional slick distribution skills.

"It sort of means you pick them both. I'm not trying to claim there is any brilliant rocket science behind it. You just have two very good players.

"The way they've played throughout the Super Rugby season and in the rugby internationals, either together or separately, has forced the coach's hand - and that's exactly what you want from players."

It is just the second game Hooper and Pocock will have started a match together, following a successful outing in a 27-19 win over the All Blacks in Sydney in August.

"We've been training with several combinations and we are starting to feel more comfortable just getting out there whatever position we're in and playing our structure," said Pocock.

"I am very excited. I really enjoyed playing alongside Michael in the Rugby Championship, so hopefully we can make that partnership work."

While the ball-seeking Pocock slots in at the back of the scrum, Cheika insisted that his selection there would not mean a seismic change in his abrasive playing style.

"For (Pocock) it's mainly about the scrum control - he's had a bit of a handle on that already," said Cheika, in his playing days also a No 8.

"I believe in him a lot there. He's been very versatile at what he's done."

Cheika added that he thought Hooper and Pocock, normally fierce competitors on the field, had "really enjoyed working together".

"They've been fierce opponents, obviously. And now there's an opportunity that they probably didn't think they'd ever get: to work together, which they've enjoyed."

Stephen Moore will captain the Wallabies against Fiji, the hooker saying the squad were raring to go.

"Sitting around watching footy all weekend, they are pretty keen to get out there now," Moore said.

"We will be blowing pretty hard in that first half, but we've been training as close as we can to game intensity so hopefully that will set us up well."

Fiji more than matched England in the loose in their 35-11 defeat by the hosts in Twickenham on Friday, and Chieka will look to the dynamic Hooper-Pocock combination to snuffle out the Pacific islanders with a view to nailing down their starting berths for tougher games to come against the English and Wales

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