Rugby Championship

Injuries force Wallabies changes against All Blacks

2018-08-16 07:12
Michael Cheika (AP)

Sydney - Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has been forced to revamp his front row and gamble on an untested centres pairing for Saturday's Rugby Championship opener against New Zealand.

Australia are desperate for a win at ANZ Stadium in a fixture that doubles as the first Bledisloe Cup Test, but were dealt a blow when loose-head Scott Sio failed a fitness test.

His shoulder problem means Tom Robertson has been drafted into the front row, alongside recalled hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and veteran Sekope Kepu at blindside.

Robertson will be making only his third Test start.

"He (Sio) could do certain things and he couldn't do others and it was 50/50 but I prefer to call it relatively early in the week and give him a chance to get ready for next week and give Tom a chance to prepare well for this week's contest," said Cheika.

"Roberston is only young and coming in on the scene but I think he's had his best year in the pro game by far.

"I think his season with the Waratahs was excellent and in particular in relation to his work ethic."

Being selected for a Bledisloe match is life-changing for Robertson, used grew up watching the annual trans-Tasman battle.

"I (watched) the Bledisloe Cup since I was a kid and to actually be starting in one is a dream come true and I just want Saturday to come quickly," he said.

"I think I'm a lot fitter this year and that's allowed me to do more things on the field and not just have more carries and tackles and whatnot, that doesn't really matter, it's the quality of that involvement."

Injuries to Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi mean Reece Hodge starts in the number 13 jersey for the first time, combining with Kurtley Beale in the centre.

There was some good news for Cheika, who is seeking to end a 15-year Bledisloe losing run, with skipper Michael Hooper and wing Dane Haylett-Petty overcoming injury concerns.

Melbourne Rebels utility back Jack Maddocks is in line to make his international debut after being named on the bench.

Teams:

Australia

15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lukhan Tui, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Tom Robertson

Substitutes: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Jack Maddocks.

New Zealand

15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody

Substitutes: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18 Tim Perry, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

 

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