Michael Cheika has announced his team to take on Fiji in the Wallabies’ opening match of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
As reported yesterday, David Pocock will start alongside captain Michael Hooper in the back row, the duo reprising their ‘Pooper’ combination for the first time this year after it worked so well at the 2015 tournament.
Pocock has replaced Lukhan Salakaia-Loto at blindside flanker, with the Queensland Reds forward shifting to the bench.
The starting XV is otherwise identical to the one the Wallabies used in their Bledisloe 1 victory over the All Blacks, although there are a couple of tweaks to the bench.
Nic White and Christian Lealiifano are the halves, while Tolu Latu has got the nod as the starting hooker. Brumbies pair Scott Sio and Allan Alaalatoa round out the front row as the two props.
In a boost for the side, Rory Arnold has overcome the hand injury which ruled him out of the heavy Bledisloe 2 loss to take his place in the second row alongside Izack Rodda, and number 8 Isi Naisarani will line up in the back row with Hooper and Pocock.
Samu Kerevi and James O’Connor are once again the centres after combining so effectively there in Perth, with Reece Hodge and Marika Koroibete on the wings and Kurtley Beale at fullback.
On the bench, Jordan Uelese has pipped Folau Fainga’a for the back-up hooker’s spot. James Slipper and Sekope Kepu are the two reserve props, meaning there’s surprisingly no place in the matchday 23 for Taniela Tupou.
Adam Coleman and Salakaia-Loto round out the bench forwards, and Will Genia, Matt To’omua and Dane Haylett-Petty take the three spots on the pine for the backs.
The side is heavy on experience, with over 1000 Test caps between the starters and reserves. Uelese and Naisarani, who’ll both be playing their fifth matches for the Wallabies, are the only players in the team with single-digit international appearances to their name.
1. Scott Sio (59 Tests)
2. Tolu Latu (15 Tests)
3. Allan Alaalatoa (33 Tests)
4. Izack Rodda (21 Tests)
5. Rory Arnold (22 Tests)
6. David Pocock (78 Tests)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (95 Tests)
8. Isi Naisarani (4 Tests)
9. Nic White (26 Tests)
10. Christian Lealiifano (22 Tests)
11. Marika Koroibete (24 Tests)
12. Samu Kerevi (vc) (29 Tests)
13. James O’Connor (48 Tests)
14. Reece Hodge (37 Tests)
15. Kurtley Beale (87 Tests)
16. Jordan Uelese (4 Tests)
17. James Slipper (91 Tests)
18. Sekope Kepu (106 Tests)
19. Adam Coleman (34 Tests)
20. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (16 Tests)
21. Will Genia (105 Tests)
22. Matt To’omua (47 Tests)
23. Dane Haylett-Petty (33 Tests)
Australia’s World Cup opener against Fiji kicks off at 2:45pm (AEST) this Saturday. You’ll be able to follow all the action right here on The Roar with our live scores and commentary, as well as match highlights and analysis.