Cheika de­fends ‘Pooper’ com­bi­na­tion from li­ne­out at­tacks

NT News - - SPORT -

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.”

Michael Hooper

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