Cheika defends ‘Pooper’ combination from lineout attacks
COACH Michael Cheika has lauded Michael Hooper as one of the best lineout jumpers in the Australian team and says playing the skipper alongside David Pocock in the backrow has not been a factor in their set-piece woes.
The “Pooper” combination is used at the expense of a fourth tall lineout option, and the Wallabies have lost multiple key throws this year, but Cheika is adamant they can fix it with more clinical throwing.
That pressure falls to hooker Tolu Latu, who will start his first Test of the year in the Cardiff cauldron of Principality Stadium against a Welsh side on a six-game winning streak.
Wales locking duo Alun Wyn Jones and 203cm Adam Beard will pile enormous pressure on Australia’s lineout, but if it crumbles again Cheika won’t see a breakup of Pooper as the solution.
“Any issue you’re saying with the lineout has got nothing to do with having those two lads there together,” Cheika said.
“Hooper is probably one of the best jumpers we’ve got in the team, he’s fast, he’s quite light, he’s usually getting lifted by two tall guys.
“He’s more than capable of winning quality lineout ball with the players we have in that formation.”
However, Cheika said it was not a given that the pair would be starting backrowers for next year’s World Cup.
“There’s a lot of challengers starting to come up now,” Cheika said.
“You’ve got (Isi) Naisarani on this tour who will be available next year, you’ve got Rob Valetini on this tour who has already shown a fair bit inside of the training sessions.”