McMahon starts at eight for Wallabies

Date published: September 29 2016

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Sean McMahon will start at number eight for Australia when they take on South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday.

McMahon replaces the injured David Pocock and edges out Lopeti Timani for the number eight jersey. It is the only change to the Wallabies starting XV which beat Argentina 36-20 in Perth two weeks ago.

The last time McMahon started for the Wallabies was during the third and final Test in Sydney in the England series. He also featured at number eight during the previous game in Melbourne when Pocock was ruled out because of the fractured eye socket he suffered in the first Test in Brisbane.

Pocock did not travel to South Africa and will not play next week in London against Argentinadue after breaking his hand.

Coach Michael Cheika believes McMahon has a chance to make the number eight position his own.

"He's a chance," Cheika told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"There's definitely an opportunity (to be a long-term number eight). There's a few guys there that will be in the mix. Ben McCalman is getting some footy under his belt, Lopeti (Timani), there's a few other players that we've got our eye on, but at the moment he's playing in the Test so he's going to be the front runner."

Cheika said McMahon might also come into play in the lineouts, an area of his game he has been working hard on and praised his physical approach.

"He's done a lot of work on his jump, so we feel confident for him to be able to perform on the lineout as well," he added.

"It's nice for us to be able to add a strong ball carrier into the back row. He's maybe not as tall as your traditional eight, but he's starting to get some of the qualities that a traditional eight has – ball carries, a strong tackle – which Poey's got as well.

"I'm going to enjoy watching him play because the conditions will suit him. It will be a fast game and a hard ground will suit him. I'm pretty pleased he's going to get a chance."

Cheika has named an extended bench with Tom Robertson getting the nod ahead of Allan Alaalatoa as front-row cover alongside James Slipper and James Hanson.

Meanwhile, Rebels flyer Sefa Naivalu is in line for his Test debut if he is named in the matchday 23.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Reece Hodge,10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 James Hanson, 17 James Slipper, 18 Tom Robertson, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Lopeti Timani, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Tevita Kuridrani, 24 Sefa Naivalu

Date: Saturday, October 1
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Johnny Lacey (Ireland), George Clancy (Ireland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)

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