‘Pooper’ super: coach defends lineout woes
JAMIE PANDARAM WALLABIES coach Michael Cheika has lauded Michael Hooper as one of the best lineout jumpers in the 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.
“It’s got nothing to do with the lineout issue; 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.”
However, Cheika said it was not a given that the pair would be starting backrowers for next year’s World Cup.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen between now and the World Cup; they’re playing outstandingly well at the moment, but 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.
“You’ve got (Jack) Dempsey coming back on this tour; still not sure about what McMahon’s doing, you’ve got Lukhan (Salakaia-Loto) who is not here, so there’s a bit of compet- ition brewing around that area.
“You’ve got Ned (Hangian) as well who has been playing, so obviously that’s only going to help us going forward.
“That gives us options, to have the option to play them together or sometimes not play them together is something that I want to have.”
A successful Australian lineout will be crucial to securing a 14th consecutive win against Wales, and returning lock Adam Coleman revealed the forward pack had been telling each other hard truths at training this week.
“You have to co-ordinate eight people for one specific movement; it’s about consistency with our lifts and our jumps; jumping in the right area and our triggers for our throws,” Coleman said. “We are working on them and being hard on one another to make sure we are getting better.”
DYNAMIC DUO: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is backing the lineout combination of Michael Hooper and David Pocock against Wales in tomorrow morning’s Test in Cardiff.