Cheika swings a heavy axe
Michael Cheika has overhauled his backline for Australia’s crucial World Cup pool match against Wales, making four changes including the introduction of halves Bernard Foley and Will Genia.
Three players dropped from the starting XV that beat Fiji 39-21 are fullback Kurtley Beale, flyhalf Christian Lealiifano and scrumhalf Nic White – who all had mixed outings in Sapporo last Saturday.
Wing Reece Hodge is missing after copping a three-week suspension for his cheap-shot high tackle against Fiji.
Adam Ashley-Cooper will start on Hodge’s right wing on Saturday, while Dane Haylett-Petty is at fullback.
Coach Cheika said the changes weren’t form-related and that he wanted to see a different backline in action.
“It’s just a little bit of a different picture,” he said.
“We thought about this from the very start, not just the game at the weekend.
“It’s a really tight go across the board in our team in a lot of positions.
“We need to be on for 80 minutes at the weekend and we’ve picked a team we think can do that.”
It will the 120th Test for 35-year-old Ashley-Cooper and his 18th World Cup game. He has started all of them.
Australia: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 David Pocock, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 21 Nic White, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale.
Date: Sunday, September 29
Venue: Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 16.45 (17.45 AEST; 08.45 UK time; 07.45 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
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