The chance to start champion openside flankers David Pocock and Michael Hooper together is just one potential experiment Wallabies coach Michael Cheika could consider for Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with Argentina.
Cheika will have just three Tests following the game in Mendoza to tweak his team before their first World Cup game against Fiji in Cardiff in late September.
Home and away Bledisloe Cup clashes with All Blacks are on the slate for August followed by a match against the United States in Chicago in early September.
Cheika can hardly afford to take Argentina lightly, especially as the Pumas beat the Wallabies in Mendoza last year.
But he’d be probably more inclined to experiment against the Pumas than against the world champion All Blacks when Australia could risk morale-sapping thrashings if not at peak.
The Hooper-Pocock back row tandem screams out as a worthwhile change – it’s hardly a risk – after both impressed against South Africa last weekend, and Pocock could be a surprise starter at No.8, where he excelled off the bench after replacing Scott Higginbotham.
Last Saturday’s Test was the fifth time Pocock, 27, and Hooper, 23, have played together at Test level, but they have yet to start an international simultaneously.
Neither of the other options – Higginbotham and last year’s incumbent Ben McCalman – have really stamped ownership on the No.8 role by dominating to date.
“It was unfamiliar at (No.) 8, but I made the most of it and really enjoyed working alongside Hoops,” Pocock said.
After the Brisbane Test Cheika himself said there was “no risk” playing the two men together, despite fears in some quarters it could compromise Australia’s lineout ability.
Cheika will be forced into a minimum three changes for the Argentina game following injuries last weekend to halfback Will Genia, winger Rob Horne and centre Matt Giteau.
Nick Phipps and Matt Toomua are standout candidates to replace Genia and Giteau after both excelled as substitutes last weekend.
France-based Drew Mitchell, who played his first Test since December 2012 off the bench, is a chance to fill the vacancy created by Horne’s injury, along with Joe Tomane, Nick Cummins and possibly even Kurtley Beale.
At the other end of the team, Cheika may look to tinker with his starting props combination after Greg Holmes and Scott Sio turned the tide in the scrum when they came off the bench against the Springboks.
“I was really happy with Scotty and Holmesy coming in, I think they really made the difference,” new Wallabies set-piece coach Mario Ledesma said.
In the second row, former captain James Horwill might gain promotion to start alongside his Reds teammate Rob Simmons, depending on whether Cheika opts to stick with emerging giant Will Skelton who was underwhelming last weekend.