Cheika backs McCalman to deliver

Date published: August 18 2016

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Australia head coach Michael Cheika played down any talk of risk being attached to picking Ben McCalman over Scott Fardy against New Zealand.

Fardy has been dropped to the bench for this weekend's Rugby Championship opener as McCalman starts with Michael Hooper and David Pocock.

That has led to questions over whether the Wallabies will lose a step at the line-out, as Fardy's been a regular weapon for them in the recent past.

But coach Cheika believes that McCalman will offer a great deal for his charges as they look to start the campaign on a positive note in Sydney.

"We have been working on a few things there and he's shown his quality there and we know that New Zealand are the best line-out defenders in the game," he told the Australian Rugby Union website on Thursday.

"We're going to have to be on our money tactically in what we do there and each one in his role, Ben included, when the game's on and the heat of battle, really clear on what their job is inside of our line-out."

Meanwhile, New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen sees the decision as a deliberate ploy to try and gain an edge in the tight exchanges.

"The line-out and scrum are always important," he said.

"They're the platforms you can attack off and they've substituted their height for breakdown tenacity I guess and that's not the first time they've done it, it's a trick they've played numerous times now since probably a year ago and it's worked for them.

"It's the risk and reward, isn't it? In their minds, they believe the risk is worth the reward that they'll get for it."

Cheika has also handed a start to Will Genia at scrum-half, who he feels is fit enough to play in this Saturday's Bledisloe Cup showdown.

"He's worked very hard from a fitness point of view I know since he's come back," he said.

"Of course, nothing simulates the game like the game itself but he's got plenty of experience to know how to manage himself in a game and when to take advantage of the situations that are there and experience in the halves is very, very important."

His former Reds team-mate, Quade Cooper, though has been left out of the squad as Cheika wants him to work on some facets of his game.

"There's a few things that I want him, and we've spoken about it, that I'd like him to improve on to really claim that starting role and I'm sure he'll be doing that," said the head coach.

"He'll be getting those things in order so that he can contest with Foley and have the opportunities to play and in relation to the bench, I felt that Toomua covered a few more positions for what we needed and he's done well for us as well."

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