Hodge to start at 12 for Wallabies

Date published: October 21 2016

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has made two changes to his starting XV for Saturday’s Test against the All Blacks in Auckland.

Cheika has moved to start Reece Hodge at his preferred inside centre spot for the first time, teaming up with Bernard Foley, who was the Wallabies regular starting fly-half until the Wellington Bledisloe Test almost two months ago.

Wallabies defence coach Nathan Grey endorsed Hodge as an inside centre option before the Wallabies flew to Auckland on Thursday.

Quade Cooper has been dropped to the bench to make way for Foley to return to his usual playmaking spot.

The moves open the door for a specialist winger to come into the starting XV, with Henry Speight the man chosen to fill that role, in his first Test start since the Wallabies’ 65-3 win over Uruguay in last year’s World Cup.

Foley will have a familiar man inside him as well, with Nick Phipps starting at scrum-half after Will Genia’s return to France.

Lopeti Timani has also held on to his spot, the big number eight starting at the back of the scrum, with David Pocock coming off the bench.

Pocock has trained fully this week after a month out with a broken hand, but Cheika has opted for a more traditional back row structure, in a move away from the dual opensides the Wallabies have fielded over the past year, when Pocock or Sean McMahon have been available.

Cheika has stuck with his rookie pairing of Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman in the second row, while veteran Rob Simmons will sit on the pine.

Tevita Kuridrani has dropped out of the 23 for the first time this season, with Sefa Naivalu, Quade Cooper and Nick Frisby making up the backs reserves.

Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore overtakes George Smith as the fourth-most capped Wallaby in his 112th Test.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Ala’alatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 David Pocock, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Sefa Naivalu

Date: Saturday, October 22
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19:35 local (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)