World Cup spots not up for grabs in USA

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says only injury is likely to change his mind about his starting 15 for the opening Rugby World Cup clash with Fiji later this month.


Cheika has chosen to use Saturday’s World Cup warm up Test against the United States at Chicago’s Soldier Field as a chance to give many fringe players needing match fitness a hit out.

It’s a team very different from the first-choice one he’s expected to unveil to meet Fiji in England on September 23 and Cheika says he already has a clear what that first team is.

While plenty of contention still surrounds which players will get the nod in that side, particularly the halves, Cheika says World Cup preparations are right on track and the USA game does not represent a make or break scenario for any player.

Those who played the majority of the Rugby Championship are being rested this weekend with others getting an opportunity to leave an impression for later in the tournament.

An exception may be the inside back grouping of Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley and Matt Giteau, who start against the American Eagles, perhaps to give them more time to gel in those all-important spots for the big games ahead.

But Cheika gives little away and could still be planning to go with the 2011 World Cup halves pair of Will Genia and Quade Cooper who are on the bench this week.

“We have had a plan from a while back as to what we think we are going to be doing (against Fiji to open the World Cup campaign),” Cheika said.

“Anything could happen but we are pretty comfortable with the plan we’ve got and what that first team looks like and our reasons for playing certain players in this game.

“Is there a player playing for his position? No.

“There is no guarantee that your plan is going to work but we definitely have one, contrary to popular opinion, and we are following it pretty much to the letter so far.”

While spots might not necessarily be on the line the Wallabies mentor stopped short of calling the game a training exercise.

He still expects the highest standards from the squad and won’t be satisfied with anything less.

“It is a Test match. It’s all about match decisions and getting experience in really making good decisions in matches because in tournament play at the World Cup that will be critical,” he said.

“This is the national team and when you play in the national jersey there are expectations on your performance.

“We have had a few really clear focus points on what we want to and what we have been improving as a constant throughout since we first came together on the spring tour of last year.

“I will be looking for those things on the field.

Captain Stephen Moore and vice-captains Michael Hooper and Adam Ashley-Cooper and David Pocock are among the rested players while prop James Slipper gets his first opportunity to captain his country.

Ben McCalman has been named vice-captain in the number six jersey.

Other players returning to the starting line-up include Joe Tomane, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Kurtley Beale, Kane Douglas and Sean McMahon who are each starting their first Test match of the 2015 international season.

Melbourne Rebels prop Toby Smith and NSW Waratahs winger Taqele Naiyaravoro, have been named on the bench to make Test debuts.