Now here’s something you don’t see every day. The Wallabies will take a virtually unchanged line-up into this year’s Bledisloe Cup decider, announcing the team the same day the All Blacks rung the changes for the Eden Park clash.
Rory Arnold is the only omission from the starting XV which dominated New Zealand in Perth last week, with the lock ruled out of Saturday’s clash with a hand injury.
The Brumbies star has been in immense form lately and there would have been the temptation to play him with the Bledisloe Cup on the line, but with the World Cup approaching, Australia’s selectors evidently weren’t willing to risk one of the side’s most important players.
Adam Coleman will slot into the starting second row in Arnold’s place alongside Izack Rodda, while Rob Simmons returns to the side on the bench after being left out for the Perth match.
There are two further tweaks on the bench, with Liam Wright replacing Luke Jones and veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper taking Tom Banks’ spot as cover for the outside backs. If Wright does make it onto the field, it will be the Reds back-rower’s debut appearance for the Wallabies.
The rest of the side is unchanged, with Christian Lealiifano and Nic White again named in the halves after commanding performances last week, particularly from White. James O’Connor and Samu Kerevi are once more the centre pairing, with Kurtley Beale the fullback and Reece Hodge and Marika Koroibete on the wings.
Allan Alaalatoa, Tolu Latu and Scott Sio have all kept their places in the front row, while Michael Hooper will captain the side from a back row which hasn’t changed this international season, with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto at blindside flanker and Isi Naisarani at number 8.
Taniela Tupou, fresh off signing a new contract with Rugby Australia which will keep him with the Wallabies for the next four years, headlines the bench forwards alongside James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a, Simmons and Wright.
The selection panel’s decision to opt for continuity means there’s still no place for David Pocock. The star flanker now only has the Wallabies’ final World Cup warm-up game against Samoa in three weeks to prove his match fitness for Japan 2019, although he is expected to be included in the Australian squad for the tournament.
There’s also no place on the bench for World Cup hopefuls Jordan Petaia and Bernard Foley, with Will Genia, Matt To’omua and Ashley-Cooper the reserve backs. While Foley is still highly likely to be on the plane to Japan, the chances of youngster Petaia now look to rest on whether he can make an impact during the Samoa game on September 7.
Earlier today, the All Blacks named a side full of changes for Bledisloe 2, dropping wingers Ben Smith and Reiko Ioane as well as experienced prop Owen Franks.
Smith has struggled to make an impact on the wing for the All Blacks this year, with Beauden Barrett pushing him out of his preferred fullback position to accommodate Richie Mo’unga in the starting side, and he and Ioane have made way for Crusaders pair Sevu Reece and George Bridge.
Nepo Laulala took Franks’ place in the front row, while Sonny Bill Williams and Patrick Tuipulotu have come into the starting XV for the injured Jack Goodhue and suspended Scott Barrett respectively.
1. Allan Alaalatoa
2. Tolu Latu
3. Scott Sio
4. Izack Rodda
5. Adam Coleman
6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Isi Naisarani
9. Nic White
10. Christian Lealiifano
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Samu Kerevi
13. James O’Connor
14. Luke Hodge
15. Kurtley Beale
16. Folau Fainga’a
17. James Slipper
18. Taniela Tupou
19. Rob Simmons
20. Liam Wright
21. Will Genia
22. Matt To’omua
23. Adam Ashley-Cooper