Cheika won’t change for the sake of it
DON'T expect too many bolters when Michael Cheika announces his Wallabies squad later this week for the upcoming tour of Asia and Europe even after he turned the air blue when he blasted his senior players in their last match.
As tempting as it is to roll the dice and use the trip to blood a bunch of new players ahead of next year's World Cup, Cheika will keep faith with the core players who pulled on the green and gold during the Rugby Championship.
With Tests against New Zealand in Japan then away to Wales, Italy and England, Cheika will still have enough space to include a handful of fringe players who were picked for the train-on squads during the year, but the bulk will be the same faces he's used before.
That will frustrate everyone who thinks the Wallabies are a shambles and need to make urgent changes but Cheika will stand his ground, safe in the knowledge he has the backing of Rugby Australia.
His unwavering loyalty to his players is well known but in this case, he really doesn't have a lot of choices because he's already nailed his colours to the mast when it comes to selection.
If, as Cheika maintains, the Wallabies are just a good team out of luck, then he has to stick with them and give them the chance to prove that the incredible comeback win over Argentina was no fluke.
If they fail to show a vast improvement against the All Blacks and don't win at least two of the other three Tests, then the axe must fall but the Wallabies don't have the luxury of being able to make wholesale changes now just for the sake of it.
Cheika still has plenty to think about before he announces his squad, probably on Thursday, before the players get together for Friday's John Eales medal presentation then fly out to Yokohama the next morning.
One of his trickiest decisions revolves around backrower Jack Dempsey, who has played strongly in the NRC after returning from a long injury lay-off.
Although he's unlikely to start, Cheika would love to get him back into the national squad environment but may decide to bide his time and allow him to complete a full pre-season training program over the summer.
Meanwhile, New Zealand just couldn't resist the temptation to show off their bottomless depth of talent by naming 51 players for their end of season tour.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen picked a senior squad of 32 for the third and final Bledisloe Cup Test plus an additional 19 players for their Test against Japan a week later.
Auckland flanker Dalton Papali'i was the only uncapped player picked in the main squad, replacing Sam Cane, who broke a bone in his neck playing against South Africa.
Hooker Dane Coles was recalled after being out for almost a year because of a knee injury while props Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, lock Brodie Retallick and flanker Liam Squire were also cleared to return.
New Zealand squad to play Australia in third Bledisloe Cup Test in Yokohama:
Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith, Rieko Ioane, Waisake Naholo, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Kieran Read (captain), Ardie Savea, Matt Todd, Dalton Papali'i, Liam Squire, Vaea Fifita, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick,
Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu, Owen Franks, Ofa Tuungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Joe
Moody, Karl Tuinukuafe, Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Nathan Harris.