Michael Cheika faces a selection dilemma as he weighs up the pros and cons of thrusting rookie locks Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman into the Eden Park cauldron for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup battle.
Anything but a “dead rubber”, Australia must stop the All Blacks juggernaut to avoid becoming the first Wallabies outfit in 117 years of international rugby to be whitewashed 3-0 by two nations in the same season.
Cheika has shuffled his second row all year, mixing and matching Coleman and Arnold with Rob Simmons, Sam Carter, Will Skelton and Kane Douglas, and will reveal on Thursday afternoon whether or not to pair up his first-year Wallabies for the first time against the All Blacks.
Coleman and Arnold started in Australia’s last-up win over Argentina at Twickenham but staring down the world champions on their home turf and at a venue where they are unbeaten against all comers since 1994 is a whole new proposition.
With star loose forward David Pocock set for a return, Cheika also must decide on the best back-row formation to deal with a mighty All Blacks side bidding for a world-record 18th straight Test triumph.
Despite the Bledisloe Cup already being lost for another year, the Wallabies coach may well revert to the tried-and-tested combination of Pocock, Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy for the high-stakes encounter.
The backline shapes as more straightforward, with Nick Phipps certain to replace Will Genia after the in-form halfback’s return to his French club commitments.
Cheika has seemingly shown his hand in his plan to persist with Bernard Foley and five-eighth Quade Cooper as twin midfield playmakers, while Samu Kerevi’s two-try haul against the Pumas should have been enough to retain the No.13 jumper.
Now that he’s available for Wallabies selection, Cheika may also be tempted to include the Melbourne Rebels’ Fiji-born winger Sefa Naivulu somewhere in his match-day 23.