Auckland - Wallabies utility back Reece Hodge could find himself lining
up in midfield in Saturday's Test against the All Blacks in Auckland.
Australia's head coach, Michael Cheika, has left it a day
later than usual to name his team for the Bledisloe Cup Test but defence mentor
Nathan Grey revealed that Hodge could be in the mix for a shift to 12.
Hodge has played five Tests for the Wallabies and started in
four, all on the wing, but played almost every position in the Rebels backline
during the Super Rugby season.
The 22-year-old’s preferred position is in the centres and
Grey said he was 'definitely' in consideration for that role on Saturday.
"We've been trying guys in different combinations at
training and trying to find how we can best maximise the talents of the guys
that we have amongst us,” he told the Australian Rugby Union's official
"“He's got a lot of experience playing in that position
obviously at Super Rugby and also being on the wing for us a number of times
"It's a good option to have there."
Grey said there wouldn’t be any hesitation in playing Hodge
at inside centre, with his familiarity in that spot at Super Rugby level and in
defence for the Wallabies.
"His skill set, he's a big body, he carries the ball
very well and he's got a good passing game that he uses and he's got good
speed, so all those attributes are very positive to have in a 12," he
"He defends there, in at 12 anyway for us, so he's used
to being in that environment."
If Hodge is moved, it would likely mean a return to Bernard
Foley at flyhalf, with Quade Cooper out of the starting side, with the door
opened for a specialist wing like Henry Speight or Sefa Naivalu to start.
Grey said the back-line combinations would all be made with
the All Blacks’ formidable defence in mind.
"Obviously we're looking for the best possible makeup
of how we can attack these guys," he said.
"Obivously, there's not very many holes in their
"They're a very strong defensive side, so we want to
have a good look at everything and make sure that we've got everything right
before we go ahead and make a decision."
Any changes would be the first to the starting Wallabies
back-line since Hodge’s run-on debut in Brisbane against South Africa more than
a month ago, though one was already guaranteed with the departure of scrumhalf
Will Genia to his club in Europe.
While the suspense of delaying the team announcement might
be intriguing fans, vice-captain Michael Hooper said the players had faith in
"It'd be silly to say we haven't trained in
combinations," he said.
"We know, we're comfortable working with each other and
how that could play out but I mean he's doing it for a reason and the outcome
is going to be the best he thinks we can get from it."
David Pocock has trained fully in Sydney this week but
whether he will start on Saturday is not entirely clear, but Hooper said his
back row team-mate hadn’t shown any rust despite a month out of the game with a
"It's like he hasn't missed a beat," he added.
"Dave's always physically in great shape but he’s come
in, skills are right up, intent's right up and he's keen to get on the field.
"(Lopeti Timani) had a cracking game in Twickenham.
"Whatever he (Cheika) decides to go with is going to
be...what he thinks is going to get us the win over here in what the team
hasn't done in a long time."