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Bledisloe Cup: Is Lukhan Tui the foil for Wallabies 'Pooper' combination?

With Michael Cheika showing no signs of budging from his Michael Hooper-David Pocock combination, the search to find the third man in Australia's back-row trio for next year's Rugby World Cup continues. The latest cab off the rank is Lukhan Tui, a western-Sydney raised 21-year-old who, in the Bledisloe Cup opener, will make just his second run-on start.

Tui was on Thursday named in the Wallabies No. 6 jersey, retaining his place from the third-Test loss to Ireland in June. The Queensland Reds forward does have some history against the All Blacks, after he made a huge impression off the bench in Brisbane last year.

Introduced early in the second half at Suncorp Stadium, Tui threw himself into the All Blacks defensive wall on 11 occasions. The ground made may have been minimal, yet his preparedness to carry through the middle of the park is exactly what Cheika needs once more on Saturday.

Given Hooper and Pocock are smaller in frame, the back-row duo do their best ball-carrying work against a fractured defensive line. Tui, along with Adam Coleman and Izack Rodda, have to be the men to take on the All Blacks' defensive line when it is set come Saturday night.

"He's a good young fella, he's from out there in western Sydney; he went to school out there," Cheika told 2GB's Alan Jones on Friday morning. "He played a lot of rugby league growing up and then he got an opportunity in Super Rugby with the Reds.

"He's a good honest fella and he wants to get into the game physically as well; he's a very smart footballer as well, he's got great skills. So he can play in the wide channels if he wants or he can take it right up the middle in the tough stuff.

"It's a simple attitude, he knows what his strengths are and he's still learning, obviously, because he's only young in his Test career. But players like playing with him, you can see the other players like playing with him."

Given Cheika's commitment to playing Hooper and Pocock in the same starting back-row, and Rugby Australia's decision to award the Wallabies skipper a five-year deal, it appears the coach will stick to his guns and not banish either Hooper or Pocock to the bench. While Pocock was on sabbatical, Cheika used a number of options at No. 6 or No. 8 in 2017.

Waratahs flanker Jack Dempsey has not been sighted at all this season after he tore his hamstring off the bone in last year's Barbarians game in Sydney, while Sean McMahon's availability for the World Cup remains uncertain due to his contract in Japan.

Ned Hanigan enjoyed a run of appearances in the No. 6 jersey last year without any great impact, while Caleb Timu was dropped for Tui after the first two Tests against Ireland.

Cheika clearly has a number of options of which some may be better than others. But he must find the right player to account for the lack of a genuine No. 8, a ball-carrier in the mould of a Kieran Read or Billy Vunipola, while also ensuring the lineout is not overly compromised.

Australia's lineout got off to a shaky start against Ireland before finishing with a 100 percent record in the third Test in Sydney, albeit with a couple of fortunate overthrows.

"I think why we gave away those [lineout] balls was probably not as much about height as about accuracy in what we were doing, everyone being clear about their role there," Cheika said of the Ireland series.

"And it only takes someone being out of sync and the ball's going to the other team there. But I believe very truly in the strategy we have for the ball at the lineout against a team [New Zealand] who is pretty good on the defensive lineout."

Hailing from Sydney's western suburbs, ANZ Stadium is the perfect stage for Tui to perform. Having already shown what he can do against the world champions off the bench last year, a continued impact from the opening whistle at the Olympic precinct could have Tui set for a long career in Wallabies gold.

The ability of the "Pooper" combination to achieve its desired outcomes is riding on someone emerging from the pack, too.