Pocock back as Wallabies look for redemption

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 08:47
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NEWS: Wallaby coach Michael Cheika recalled David Pocock and Sean McMahon for the final Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand in Auckland next week.

Pocock (fractured hand) and McMahon (ankle) both return from injury as the Wallabies aim to break their three-decade-long drought at Eden Park.

Cheika said Pocock was a possibility of playing in Auckland, though McMahon would be less likely.

"They've been called into the squad for this game because there's a chance that Pocock could be available for this game," he said.

"McMahon probably a little less but we thought we'd bring him in and get an update on him as well."

Pocock hasn't played since facing Argentina a month ago, after he broke his hand during the first half of the 36-20 win in Perth.

Fellow No.8 McMahon was injured a week later in Pretoria when he went down with an ankle injury, but has recovered well ahead of schedule - with the pair now to battle it out with Lopeti Timani for a starting berth.

There is also a recall for Will Skelton, with the monster lock in strong form for the Western Sydney Rams in the National Rugby Championship.

However, Cheika has lost scrumhalf Will Genia' for the trip to Auckland.

The Auckland match falls outside the international window in which nations have access to their overseas-based players.

Cheika said the Wallabies did ask his French club Stade Francais if Genia could remain for the final Test, but understood their decision to call him back to the Top 14.

"The rules are the rules at the end of the day," he said.

"It's not an international window and they wanted a player to go back.

"We obviously asked to see if he could stay and they want the player to go back and that's a fair call on their behalf.

"Just as we're able to call them out on that rule [regulation], we had an agreement on how we'd operate in the interim and been respected.

"As much as I'd like to have him back and playing from my end, they're totally within their rights to ask for a player back."

He felt Genia's unavailability gave his back-up Nick Phipps a chance to "get stuck in" at Eden Park.

"Genia has been really good; he's been in some of the best form he's had in an Australian jersey," Cheika said.

"He's been really instrumental for the team as a whole and he's one of the senior players we do have , but it's a great opportunity for Nick Phipps to get back out there and stake a claim for the jersey."

Cheika conceded his team faced a huge task against an All Blacks side he said were in the "form of their lives" and chasing a record straight 18th Test win.

"We understand how big the gap has been since the last victory for Australia at Eden Park," said Cheika, referring to the Wallabies' last win over New Zealand there in 1986.

"And we know we're going to have to be at our best. You're going to have to play the best football of your life to get a result there."

Cheika singled out detail in defence as an area his team could improve on from their two Bledisloe Cup losses earlier in the season.

"I think we got caught in those games where we gave up some tries on the edges. It was probably guys getting to know the system," Cheika said.

"'We seem to have got ahead of that issue now - our defence has definitely improved over the last few games."

He said hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau would remain sidelined for a few months after undergoing arm surgery this week

Australian squad: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Quade Cooper, Kane Douglas, Scott Fardy, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Nick Frisby, James Hanson, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani, Tolu Latu, Sean McMahon, Stephen Moore, Luke Morahan, Dean Mumm, Sefanaia Naivalu, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Tom Robertson, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Will Skelton, Henry Speight, James Slipper, Lopeti Timani.