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Wallabies to play Super Rugby invitational side in Bledisloe warm-up

Michael Hooper of the Wallabies. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
26th July, 2018
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The Wallabies will face an Australian Super Rugby invitational side in a trial game next Friday as they think outside the square to snap New Zealand’s Bledisloe Cup superiority.

Michael Cheika’s men will play a side featuring the best of the rest not involved in club or Super Rugby finals at Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval.

It is hoped the trial will put the Wallabies on the front foot in August 18’s Bledisloe opener after the All Blacks shot out of the gates in the corresponding game last year.

“Spending five weeks on the sideline before a Bledisloe Test match is not what we want ideally,” Cheika said.

“It’s not just about the contact, because you can get all that in training.

“But just the little things. The pressure in front of a crowd, the referee telling you what to do, the dressing room build up, all those things. The mental side of footy.”

No NSW Waratahs will feature in the clash given their impending Super Rugby semi-final with South Africa’s Lions this Saturday.

That, combined with injuries to outside centres Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi, means Cheika will also get a chance to assess his options.

The coach said both Reece Hodge and Curtis Rona would be looked at in the No.13 role for the Bledisloe Cup match, while also throwing fullback Israel Folau into the mix and hinting young Reds playmaker Hamish Stewart will spend time at five-eighth.

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“He’s (Folau) played there before … it’s no secret I prefer him at 15 (fullback), but he’s played there,” Cheika said.

The hit-out will also give halfback Will Genia (broken arm) and lock Adam Coleman (adductor strain) valuable game time after both were injured in June’s Test series against Ireland.

Australian women’s sevens coach John Manenti will mentor the invitational squad that will not feature either of exiled Reds Karmichael Hunt or Quade Cooper given their club Souths are still alive in the Brisbane club competition.

The clash will be free to the public, who are encouraged to donate a gold coin in support of grassroots rugby.

Both squads will be named next week.

The Wallabies will be hoping to wrestle the Bledisloe Cup out of New Zealand’s hands for the first time since 2002 when their three-match series begins on August 18.

Like last season, two of the Bledisloe matches will also count towards the Rugby Championship.