Wallaby harmony rules
WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT: Australia scrumhalf Will Genia said he was happy to “fit in” where needed as the Wallabies centurion looks to end a storied career at the global showpiece.
The 31-year-old, who is battling it out with Nic White for the starting role in Japan, insisted the team came first as two-time champions Australia prepare for their Pool D opener against Fiji in Sapporo this weekend.
“Whatever role I’m chosen to play – whether it’s from the start or at the back end of games, I’m not particularly fussed,” he told reporters at Australia’s training base in Odawara.
“I’m confident in my game and what I’ll bring if given the opportunity,” added Genia, who started just one this season’s four Rugby Championship games but got the nod in Australia’s recent 34-15 win over Samoa in their last Test.
“The main difference is when you start the game you can build into it. When you come off the bench you want to bring energy and bring impact into the game, but you don’t want to be trying to do too much – you want to try and fit in to the way the game is being played.”
Genia, who has won 105 Australia caps and is set to bring the curtain down on an illustrious Wallabies career in Japan, joked that flyhalf Bernard Foley could even get a runout ahead of him as an emergency scrumhalf.
“He’s been feeding the scrum, practising his passing,” said the Melbourne Rebel.
“If the worst comes to the worst we have got that cute little thing playing No.9 as well.”
* Continue reading below …
But Genia tipped Australia to benefit from the competition between himself and White, the other specialist scrumhalf in Michael Cheika’s squad.
‘Pretty loud, pretty out there’
“We bounce ideas off each other as to how we can get better or what we would do in this situation,” said Genia, a veteran of Australia’s 2011 and 2015 World Cup campaigns.
“He’s pretty loud and pretty out there, I’m a pretty laid back sort of guy.”
Australia will be expected to join Wales in the knockout stage from Pool D, which also involves Uruguay and Georgia, but treble-chasing New Zealand, England and South Africa are among a handful of teams tipped ahead of them to win the World Cup.
However, a thumping 47-26 home win over the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship last month demonstrated the Aussies can’t be ruled out of the equation and assistant coach Shaun Berne backed Cheika to get the Wallabies firing.
“Michael Cheika is Michael Cheika,” he said.
“He hasn’t changed in the 15 years I have known him – he’s good at trying to get the best out of people.”
Wallabies utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper, meanwhile, will be hoping to join George Gregan as only the second Australian to play at four World Cups.
Ashley-Cooper recalled scoring in Australia’s 93-3 rout of Japan at the 2007 World Cup.
“I was just a young bloke – fat face, short hair, crew cut,” winced the 35-year-old.
“I have no idea why I shaved my head, it was an awful look. Hard to put into words.”
Despite Ashley-Cooper’s own proximity to retirement, Genia backed his teammate, insisting: “He’s still got it!”