June 14, 2018 / 4:00 AM / 7 days ago

Australia's Cheika sticks with same squad for first time

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia coach Michael Cheika has trusted the same 23-man squad that surprised Ireland in the first test to sew up the three-match series with a game to spare in Melbourne on Saturday.

Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Australia - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 18, 2017 Australia head coach Michael Cheika REUTERS/Hannah McKay

It is the first time since Cheika took over as the national coach in November 2014 that he has kept the same matchday squad for a second successive week.

The Wallabies upset the pundits and form book to beat the world number two side 18-9 in Brisbane last week with some superb defence, a dominant breakdown presence in David Pocock and a late surge with impetus from their bench.

Cheika, however, resisted the temptation to beef up his wobbly lineout with the addition of New South Wales Waratahs’ loose forward Ned Hanigan, who missed the first test due to injury.

Given the success of Pocock in the number six jersey with the 30-year-old playing essentially a left-right openside flanker combination with captain Michael Hooper, it was little wonder Cheika did not bring Hanigan back, leaving Caleb Timu as the starting number eight.

Alan Alaalatoa, who was originally selected on the bench last week before he withdrew with an ankle injury, was unable to force his way back into the matchday squad with Tom Robertson retaining his replacement prop spot.

With wet weather forecast for Melbourne on Saturday, Cheika has decided on a 6-2 split for his bench with scrumhalf Nick Phipps and utility Reece Hodge the only backs in the replacements.

Team: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Dane Haylett-Petty, 13-Samu Kerevi, 12-Kurtley Beale, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Bernard Foley, 9-Will Genia, 8-Caleb Timu, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-David Pocock, 5-Adam Coleman, 4-Izack Rodda, 3-Sekope Kepu, 2-Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1-Scott Sio

Replacements: 16-Tolu Latu, 17-Tom Robertson, 18-Taniela Tupou, 19-Rob Simmons, 20-Lukhan Tui, 21-Pete Samu, 22-Nick Phipps, 23-Reece Hodge

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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