Cheika has named Sekope Kepu to start at loosehead prop and NSW’s biggest ever player, Will Skelton, returns at lock, pushing Jacques Potgieter to flanker and Dave Dennis to No. 8.
Benn Robinson slips back to the bench to allow Wallaby prop Kepu his first run on start of 2014 for this week’s Weary Dunlop Shield match.
“I just wanted to try this combination, I thinks Keps has played well and was unlucky to miss out in the first place. He’s done what he needs to do to force his way back in the side,” said Cheika. Kepu isn’t about to let his coach down, promising. “I’ll leave no stone unturned to get it right.”
He packs down alongside Paddy Ryan and hooker Tatafu Polota Nau, who’ll become the sixth most capped NSW player in history, when he takes to the field on Friday night.
In the reshuffled pack, Skelton will join the durable Kane Douglas at lock, whilst the back row will comprise blindside flanker Potgieter, Michael Hooper, who earns his 50th Super Rugby cap at openside, and skipper Dave Dennis at No. 8.
If he comes on from the bench, Wycliff Palu will earn his 99th NSW state cap against Melbourne.
“We’ve got to make sure we use Cliff correctly and he’ll definitely contribute at the back end of the game,” stated the coach.
Scrumhalf Nick Phipps takes on his old club for the first time in Super Rugby, since joining the Waratahs at the start of this season.
“I’ve got a lot of friends down there but it won’t be any different to playing any other Australian franchise,” claimed the number nine.
In the midfield, Bernard Foley will wear the 10 jumper and Kurtley Beale, also lining up against his old club, will wear number 12.
Adam Ashley-Cooper is at outside centre and the back three of Peter Betham, Alofa Alofa and Israel Folau remains the same.
1. Sekope Kepu 2. Tatafu Polota Nau 3. Paddy Ryan 4. Will Skelton 5. Kane Douglas 6. Jacques Potgieter 7. Michael Hooper 8. Dave Dennis (c) 9. Nick Phipps 10. Bernard Foley 11. Peter Betham 12. Kurtley Beale 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper 14. Alofa Alofa (West Harbour) 15. Israel Folau
Replacements from: 16. Tolu Latu 17. Jeremy Tilse 18. Benn Robinson 19. Wycliff Palu 20. Stephen Hoiles 21. Brendan McKibbin 22. Rob Horne 23. Matt Carraro24. Pat McCutcheon 25. Jonno Lance