Cheika’s historic Wallabies squad selection move
WALLABIES coach Michael Cheika has embraced the "if it ain't broke" mentality for the first time in his four-year tenure after naming an unchanged 23-man squad for the second Test against Ireland in Melbourne.
Though two experienced Wallabies in Rory Arnold and Ned Hanigan became available for selection after missing last week, Cheika has stuck solid with the players who got the job done in the first Test win over the Irish in Brisbane.
Caleb Timu has maintained his position in the back row and even with Cheika keeping a six-two split on the bench, Arnold couldn't oust Rob Simmons or Lukhan Tui for a spot on the pine.
Making no changes is a significant change of attitude for Cheika, who has been a constant tinkerer in his 46-Test career as Wallabies coach.
Last year Cheika broke new ground by naming the same run-on side for three straight matches but he's never before kept an entire 23-man squad for back-to-back matches.
It is not only a sign that Cheika wants to reward the players who performed well in the first Test but also an indication the coach is clear on which players he prefers after a few years of trial and error, and is now keen to start bedding down combinations ahead of the World Cup next year.
There was speculation Cheika would rush back Hanigan into the team to solidify the line out, which was one area that wobbled in the first Test. Hanigan is one of Australia's highest percentage lineout options, from the backrow stocks.
But the Wallabies are clearly confident their lineout problems weren't down to a lack of jumping targets and with another week of training under the belt, Brandon Paenga-Amosa and line out captain Adam Coleman will believe they can smooth out that set-piece area.
With phsyicality playing such a huge role in the first Test - and the game expected to be wet on Saturday - Cheika has stuck with the gamble of naming a six-two bench. It gives the Wallabies plenty of muscle in reserve from a forwards perspective but opens up the door for problems if there are multiple injury issues in the backline on the night.
Qantas Wallabies team to play Ireland at AAMI Park, Melbourne on Saturday 16 June, 8.05pm AEST
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