VIDEO: Samoa Test exactly what Wallabies need says Cheika
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika Thursday said he was expecting a fast and physical game from Samoa at the weekend, with places in his World Cup starting side up for grabs.
The Australians face the Pacific islanders in Sydney on Saturday with a new-look mix of veterans and relative newcomers captained by the returning David Pocock as a handful of regulars are rested ahead of the tournament in Japan.
That means no Michael Hooper, Kurtley Beale, Samu Kerevi, Allan Alaalatoa or Christian Lealiifano, who are all being kept in cotton wool to minimise the risk of injury.
It hands opportunities to players such as Bernard Foley and Jack Dempsey who are part of the squad heading to Japan but have been on the fringes in recent times.
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Cheika said it was a chance for them to “put their hand up to be selected” for their opening World Cup match against a dangerous Fiji on September 21 in Sapporo.
“There’s a lot of players in this team who have selection opportunities ahead of them for the first match,” he said.
“We’ve got our ideas of what we want the side to look like, tactically what we want to do and the players that will fit that blend. So we’ll see how the guys roll out on Saturday.”
Injury-hit flank Pocock, a master of the breakdown, will pull on a gold jersey for the first time in almost a year on Saturday, while Will Genia, Sekope Kepu and Tatafu Polota-Nau will wear it at home for the last time.
Genia and Kepu are retiring from international rugby at the end of the World Cup, while Polota-Nau failed to make the squad and is being given a send off in Sydney.
The Wallabies, two-time World Cup winners, head into the match on the back of a demoralising defeat to the All Blacks in Auckland last month, just a week after upsetting their arch-rivals in Perth.
Cheika said playing lowly Samoa, who only just scraped into the World Cup after a poor qualifying campaign, would be “exactly what we need” before heading to Japan.
“We’ve had a look at what they have done at the Pacific Nations Cup and last weekend [when they beat a New Zealand Heartland XV] and our expectation is that it will be physical, it will be fast,” he said.
“We are going to use our fitness to keep the pace of the game going as long as we can. We need to stay connected and play the style of footy that we need to play.”