AUCKLAND —As the All Blacks scramble to get their Rugby World Cup campaign back on track, the Wallabies have resisted the temptation to experiment for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup decider at Eden Park on Saturday.
With the Wallabies attempting to wrestle back the Bledisloe for the first time since 2002, Michael Cheika confirmed foxsports.com.au’s report on Wednesday by making just one change to his side’s starting XV as Adam Coleman comes in for the injured Rory Arnold
There are, however, two tactical changes in the reserves, with Queensland Reds back-rower Liam Wright poised to make his debut and veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper given one final chance to press his claims for a historic fourth World Cup campaign.
Wright, who finished the Super Rugby season in sensational form at openside flanker, has been included ahead of Luke Jones.
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Centurion Ashley-Cooper, 35, who hasn’t played for the Wallabies this year, will cover the outside backs instead of Brumbies flyer Tom Banks.
But it’s the loss of Arnold and the continued absence of star breakdown specialist David Pocock that are the major talking points.
The imposing, 2.08m Arnold has been ruled out after failing to recover from a hand injury suffered in the Wallabies’ 47-26 demolition of the All Blacks in Perth last Saturday.
His absence is a giant blow given his stellar form in 2019.
One Wallabies insider said he had been the team’s best player by a mile this year.
And former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns compared Arnold’s form with All Blacks enforcer Brodie Retallick as one of the best locks in the world.
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His scratching gives Coleman, who made a strong impression off the bench in Perth, an opportunity to nail a World Cup berth.
The continuity of selection is in stark difference to four years ago when Cheika — on the back of a 27-19 win over the All Blacks in Sydney — made wholesale changes.
The decision backfired as the Wallabies were blown off the park 41-13.
Kiwi fly-half Dan Carter bounced back to form and the champion playmaker went on to star in the World Cup final against Australia.
This time, there will be no excuses after All Blacks coach Steve Hansen made sweeping changes to his side.
Wingers Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane were dropped for Crusaders pair George Bridge and Sevu Reece, while Nepo Laulala has come in for Owen Franks at tighthead prop.
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The other two changes are forced, with Patrick Tuipulotu coming in for the suspended Scott Barrett at lock and Sonny Bill Williams replacing the injured Jack Goodhue in the centres.
Hansen said the Test was ideal preparation for the All Blacks.
“I’m loving it,” Hansen said.
“This is the best challenge we could get prior to going to the World Cup.
“We’re going to get asked some questions about ourselves.
“We didn’t front up last week.
“We need to front up this week otherwise it (Bledisloe) will be going back to Australia.”
The Wallabies are flying from Melbourne to Auckland on Thursday afternoon.