Sport Union Coach Michael Cheika shakes up Wallabies starting side

Coach Michael Cheika shakes up Wallabies starting side

Izack Rodda
Izack Rodda is in line for a Test debut for the Wallabies against South Africa. Photo: AAP
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Michael Cheika has rung the changes for Australia’s Rugby Championship clash against South Africa, handing maiden starts to Izack Rodda, Jack Dempsey and Marika Koroibete.

Rookie forward Lukhan Tui is also in line for a potential Test debut off the bench in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Cheika has made three changes to the Wallabies XV that beat Argentina 45-20 in Canberra, with the three new starters replacing lock Rob Simmons, flanker Ned Hanigan and winger Henry Speight.

Meanwhile, former skipper Stephen Moore has been recalled onto an extended bench that will be finalised closer to the match.

Rodda’s elevation continues his meteoric rise this year.

The 21-year-old only made his Super Rugby debut for the Queensland Reds in the opening round but impressed so much this season, and was quickly drafted into the Test ranks.

“He has had a couple of goes off the bench and he’s done well. It’s a good opportunity,” Cheika said.

“Simmons hasn’t been poor in any way but maybe how we start, how we finish – it’s going to be a big forward battle I would say.

“We’ll unleash him out there when he’s fresh and ready to go.”

Cheika said he promoted Dempsey because he felt like the Wallabies should “change it up”.

“The eye roll in the back of the head with Jack … he gets very aggressive and that’s what I like,” he said.

“You have to have one or two of those guys in your pack. He loves the contact and he loves to get into it. That’s one of the big reasons I like him as a player.”

Rugby league convert Koroibete made his debut against Los Pumas and scored a try late in the match and Cheika said the flyer was ready to step up.

“He still has a bit to work on in terms of finding his lines off set-pieces and things like that. But defensively and his work-rate… he’s on the money,” Cheika said.

Either Speight or Tui will be culled from the bench, with Cheika mulling a possible 6-2 split of forwards and backs.

If Tui plays at the Free State Stadium, he would be Australia’s 11th debutant this year and the 24th since the 2015 World Cup.

While Cheika has been criticised for ‘handing out’ too many caps to young players, he has practically matched former Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie, who blooded 23 newbies at the same point two years after the 2011 World Cup.

Wallabies: Israel Folau, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Sean McMahon, Michael Hooper, Jack Dempsey, Adam Coleman, Izack Rodda, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio. Bench (one to be omitted): Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Tui, Ned Hanigan, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Henry Speight.