Wallabies bench Cooper, Naivalu named as Kerevi retains position

HENRY Speight has forced his way in to the Wallabies staring line up as Samu Kerevi retains his place.

Quade Cooper has been dumped to the bench in a backline reshuffle for Australia’s face-saving Bledisloe Cup chance against the All Blacks in Auckland tonight.

Sefa Naivalu remains on the bench. While he’s opted for an unchanged forward pack with star loosehead David Pocock to return from injury via the bench, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has restored Bernard Foley to first five-eighth to accommodate Reece Hodge’s strength and skills in his preferred second five position.

Cheika had tried to keep the All Blacks guessing until midday on match eve of the final trans-Tasman showdown of the year before revealing an exciting, new-look Wallabies backline.

However, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had correctly tipped Cooper’s benching on Thursday, along with a bigger mid-field combination of Hodge and Samu Kerevi.

Hodge has been impressive since making his international debut earlier this season and Australian defence coach Nathan Grey said playing the 22-year-old at No 12 in a powerful Stirling Mortlock-like midfield role made perfect sense.

“We’ve been trying guys in different combinations at training and trying to find the best ways to maximise the talents of the guys that we have,” Grey said.

But moving Hodge to the midfield has necessitated relegating Cooper and shifting Foley.

Speight replaces Hodge on the wing, giving the backline more balance with every player playing their natural positions.

With in-form Will Genia returning to French club rugby, Nick Phipps got the nod over Nick Frisby as the new starting halfback.

Wallabies: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Samu Kerevi, Reece Hodge, Henry Speight, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Lopeti Timani, Michael Hooper, Dean Mumm, Adam Coleman, Rory Arnold, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (capt), Scott Sio. Reserves: James Hanson, Tom Robertson, Allan Ala’alatoa, Rob Simmons, David Pocock, Nick Frisby, Quade Cooper, Sefa Naivalu.

All Blacks: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa.

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