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Cheika Restores Back Row Combo Of Hooper And Pocock For Fiji Test

Pocock Hooper

Captain Michael Hooper and stalwart David Pocock have both been named to start in the back row for Australia in their World Cup opener against Fiji on Saturday.

The duo, along with Scott Sio, are the only surviving starters from their game against the Fijians at the World Cup in London in 2015, as well as the final from the same year.

Pocock is playing in his third World Cup in an Australian jersey and he starred alongside Hooper in the tournament four years ago, a factor which sees Lukhan Salakaia-Loto demoted to the bench.

Head coach Michael Cheika insists that the experience was the reasoning behind the decision.

“With the first game of the World Cup we went for a little bit more experience, just for this first one. They have done this before, the two boys playing together and, of course, for (number eight) Isi (Naisarani) it will be his first game in a Rugby World Cup.

“We have worked on the possibility of this type of combination for the last couple of weeks so we are pretty confident with them working well together.

“Rest assured these players aren’t just selected for their play on the ground. There are a lot of other facets to their game, which they can contribute to the team, both in attack and defence, and from an experience point of view as well.”

Meanwhile, there are also big calls in the half-back pairing as Nic White and Christian Lealiifano are prefered to Bernard Foley and Will Genia.

James O’Connor is named at outside centre alongside Samu Kerevi and Cheika is happy with how O’Connor has reintegrated himself into the squad following his six-year absence.

“I didn’t know a lot about James previously, I have never coached him before or had a lot to do with him. But, as I have said before, the way he went out about contacting me about the possibilities of coming back home and putting himself for availability and his work ethic and the way he has reintegrated himself into the team says a lot about him.”

Kick off in the Sapporo Dome on Saturday is 1.45pm (local time).

Australia team v Fiji: 

1. Scott Sio

2. Tolu Latu

3. Allan Alaalatoa

4. Izack Rodda

5. Rory Arnold

6. David Pocock

7. Michael Hooper (capt.)

8. Isi Naisarani

9. Nicholas White

10. Christian Lealiifano

11. Marika Koroibete

12. Samu Kerevi

13. James O’Connor

14. Reece Hodge

15. Kurtley Beale

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Author: Marisa Kennedy

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. You can contact her at marisa@punditarena.com or on Twitter