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Thursday 8 December 2016

Sean McMahon in for Hooper as Michael Cheika hopes Australia side steps up

Michael Cheika, pictured, scares his Wallabies squad witless, according to Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton
Michael Cheika, pictured, scares his Wallabies squad witless, according to Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton

Australia coach Michael Cheika has stuck with two openside specialists in his back row for their Rugby World Cup Pool A showdown with Wales, bringing in Sean McMahon for the banned Michael Hooper in one of three changes to his side.

Tomorrow’s clash will decide which of the two countries tops the pool and avoids South Africa in the last eight, as well as a potential semi-final against the All Blacks.

Cheika was forced to rejig his back row after Hooper was handed a week’s ban for charging into a ruck shoulder first to clear out England’s Mike Brown last Saturday.

McMahon, who was outstanding when Australia’s second string pummelled Uruguay in their second pool match, comes in as a like-for-like replacement for Hooper while fellow openside flanker David Pocock again fills the number eight shirt.

Wallabies winger Rob Horne was ruled out after damaging his shoulder in the 33-13 victory over England.

His replacement Drew Mitchell brings experience to the backline while the third change promotes lock Dean Mumm from the bench in place of the usual lineout caller Rob Simmons.

The Australians delayed their team announcement because of concerns over the fitness of Israel Folau, who rolled his ankle against England, but the fullback was cleared to start.

“Every match in this tournament has required our team to step up to another level and we’ll need to do that again against an undefeated Welsh team,” Cheika said.

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