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Radradra on Fiji's wing as Cheika pairs Hooper and Pocock in Wallaby back row

The Australia coach was reluctant to suggest that the duo could also start together against Wales in week two.

File photo of Hooper, left, and Pocock in harness.
File photo of Hooper, left, and Pocock in harness.
Image: AAP/PA Images

DAVID POCOCK WILL start alongside Australia captain Michael Hooper in the Wallabies’ back-row for their Rugby World Cup opener against Fiji in Sapporo on Saturday (kick-off 5.45 Irish time, eir Sport).

The starting XV announced by coach Michael Cheika today is almost the same that inflicted a record 47-26 Bledisloe Cup defeat on world champions New Zealand in Perth last month, with the inclusion of flanker Pocock – who had been struggling with a calf injury and will retire after the World Cup – the only change.

“I think with the first game of a World Cup, we went for a little bit more experience to be honest, just for this first one” said Cheika, who took Australia all the way to a 2015 final where they lost to New Zealand.

“They’ve done this before, the two boys playing together… We’ve worked on the possibility of this kind of combination for the last couple of weeks and they’ve been working well together,” Cheika told reporters after unveiling his side at the squad’s Sapporo hotel.

His (Pocock’s) selection is for this game and after that we’ll work out a team for the next game.”

Both Hooper and Pocock are renowned for their expert work in slowing down and turning over opposition ball at the breakdown, which could prove important against a Fiji side that is at its best playing a quick-moving running game.

Cheika, however, insisted that the inclusion of the two ‘natural 7s’ would bear fruit in the running game.

“I don’t know if it’s to slow them (Fiji) down,” he said. “If they can get the ball off the ground, it’s a bonus.

“Rest assured, these players aren’t selected just for their play on the ground. 

“There’s a lot of other facets to the game where they can contribute to the team, both in attack and defence.”

Meanwhile lock Rory Arnold has overcome a hand injury that ruled him out of the second Bledisloe Cup clash in Auckland, which New Zealand won 36-0, while Nic White and Christian Lealiifano return at half-backs after sitting out the Test against Samoa earlier this month. 

“I think Nic and Christian, there’s been strong competition, between Nic and Christian, Bernard (Foley) and Matt To’omua also as well,” said Cheika.

“But I think in the Rugby Championship they showed enough to us about their composure, ability to adapt on the run, which I think will be big in this game and their ability to create play in both attack and defence. And they deserve the opportunity to play in game one. 

“It’s tight competition. In a lot of positions for us it’s tight, which is good. It makes it tough when you are picking a team but it’s good for us because it will only help to push the standard of play up.”

Australia also faced Fiji in their 2015 World Cup opener, winning 28-13 in Cardiff. But John McKee’s men are stocked with talent as they chase an opening round upset.

Former NRL star Semi Radradra is named on the wing, while there are three 2016 Olympic Sevens champions in the starting XV.

“We know Australia are a very good team and present a big challenge for us but, because of our preparation, I know that our team is mentally and physically ready for that challenge,” said McKee.

The Wallabies play Wales in their second Pool D clash in Tokyo on September 29 before games against Uruguay and Georgia in Oita and Shizuoka on October 5 and October 11, respectively. Fiji will take on Uruguay second up next Wednesday.

Australia

15. Kurtley Beale
14. Reece Hodge
13. James O’Connor
12. Samu Kerevi
11. Marika Koroibete
10. Christian Lealiifano
9. Nic White

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

Replacements:

16. Jordan Uelese
17. James Slipper
18. Sekope Kepu
19. Adam Coleman
20. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
21. Will Genia
22. Matt To’omua
23. Dane Haylett-Petty

Fiji

15. Kini Murimurivalu
14. Josua Tuisova
13. Waisea Nayacalevu
12. Levani Botia
11. Semi Radradra
10. Ben volavola
9. Frank Lomani

1. Campese Ma’afu
2. Samuel Matavesi
3. Peni Ravai
4. Tevita Cavubati
5. Leone Nakawara
6. Dominiko Wawqaniburotu
7. Peceli Yato
8. Viliami Mata

Replacements

16. Veremalua Vugakoto
17. Mosese Voka
18. Eroni Mawi
19. Nikola Matawalu
20. Manasa Saulo
21. Alivereti Veitokani
22. Tevita Ratuva
23. Vereniki Goneva

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