Head coach of the Wallabies Michael Cheika speaks to the media during a press conference on Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, August 23, 2018. (AAP Image/David Rowland) NO ARCHIVING
Head coach of the Wallabies Michael Cheika speaks to the media during a press conference on Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, August 23, 2018. (AAP Image/David Rowland) NO ARCHIVING

Why Cheika axed star Wallabies star

VETERAN prop Sekope Kepu has been dropped to the bench because of his work ethic, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika revealed after shaking up his front row for the must-win second Bledisloe Test.

Allan Alaalatoa has been promoted to start at tighthead prop ahead of Kepu, who has started every game since the second Bledisloe Test last year for Australia.

"Allan has merited the opportunity ahead of Keps there, and Keps is going to have to respond now," Cheika said.

"I think Allan's work ethic has set a standard that Keps has got to chase, go after it."

Cheika has brought loosehead Scott Sio straight into the starting team in place of Tom Robertson, who he said had technical difficulties in the scrum.

And he's dropped back-up hooker Tolu Latu altogether after the Wallabies lost seven of their own lineouts, and chosen to blood rookie Folau Faingaa, with just 13 Super Rugby games of experience, to replace starter Tatafu Polota-Nau in the cauldron of Eden Park against the dominant All Blacks pack.

Cheika said his decision to drop Latu for Faingaa was based on last week's lineout and training form this week.

"You're always going to have a look at the game obviously, you'd be lying if you didn't say that, but a bit of both," Cheika said.

"It's not just based on lineout from game time, because there were several reasons why they didn't work, not all just the hooker, you can't all look at it in that respect.

"Maybe call it a coach's gut feel, I think that this is a game that will suit him."

 

Australia's Sekope Kepu has been warned he must lift his workrate if he is to return to the Wallabies first XV. Picture: Brett Costello
Australia's Sekope Kepu has been warned he must lift his workrate if he is to return to the Wallabies first XV. Picture: Brett Costello

 

Brandon Paenga-Amosa, who started in the June series against Ireland, was left at home for this trip.

Sio and Alaalatoa, both sons of former Manu Samoa players who've known each other since birth, now have the task of setting the platform for Australia's first win over New Zealand in Auckland since 1986.

"We attended each other's first birthday and we grew up in Sydney together," Sio said.

"Over the years we started at Wests juniors together and myself and Allan - our paths kept together - and my brother and Michael went their separate ways.

"We have always kept in contact and I've been very lucky to have Allan down there at the Brumbies with me.

 

Scott Sio will start in place at loosehead in place of Tom Robertson. Picture: AAP Image
Scott Sio will start in place at loosehead in place of Tom Robertson. Picture: AAP Image

 

"He's someone I grew up with and he just kept helping me along the way. "Hopefully there is more to come for us."

Cheika said Alaalatoa did enough off the bench last week to earn a start.

"He's been doing well around the team on and off the field, a young fella who is coming up and showing a bit of leadership around the team.

"I thought in his own role he stabilised us when he came on at the weekend and he had to switch roles between tighthead and loosehead, and I thought he deserved the opportunity.

"Allan is the guy who is crossing over both sides for us at the moment, it's good experience for him, he's still only 23, 24.

"It will help him in his role within the team looking at the front row stocks we have.

"That's the challenge out to Keps now, to hit back."

 

Backup hooker Tolu Latu has paid the price for errant lineout throws. Picture: Getty Images
Backup hooker Tolu Latu has paid the price for errant lineout throws. Picture: Getty Images

 

 

NEW ZEALAND VS AUSTRALIA - SATURDAY, 5.35PM, EDEN PARK, AUCKLAND

WALLABIES:

15. Dane Haylett-Petty 14. Jack Maddocks 13. Reece Hodge 12. Kurtley Beale 11. Marika Koroibete 10. Bernard Foley 9. Will Genia 8. David Pocock 7. Michael Hooper (captain) 6. Lukhan Tui 5. Adam Coleman 4. Izack Rodda 3. Allan Alaalatoa 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau 1. Scott Sio.

Reserves: 16. Folau Faingaa 17. Tom Robertson 18. Sekope Kepu 19. Rob Simmons 20. Pete Samu 21. Nick Phipps 22. Matt Toomua 23. Tom Banks.

ALL BLACKS:

15. Jordie Barrett 14. Ben Smith 13. Jack Goodhue 12. Ngani Laumape 11. Waisake Naholo 10. Beauden Barrett 9. Aaron Smith 8. Kieran Read (captain) 7. Sam Cane 6. Liam Squire 5. Sam Whitelock 4. Brodie Rettalick 3. Owen Franks 2. Codie Taylor 1. Joe Moody.

Reserves: 16. Nathan Harris 17. Karl Tu'inukuafe 18. Ofa Tuungafase 19. Scott Barrett 20. Ardie Savea 21. TJ Perenara 22. Damian McKenzie 23. Anton Lienert-Brown.

 

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Allan Alaalatoa did enough off the bench last week to earn a start, Picture: AAP Image
Allan Alaalatoa did enough off the bench last week to earn a start, Picture: AAP Image