Wallabies look for convincing WC send-off against Samoa - GulfToday

Wallabies look for convincing WC send-off against Samoa


Australian players attend a practice session in Sydney on Friday. Agence France-Presse

Sydney: Australia on Saturday head into their final game before leaving for Japan, fielding a makeshift team as key players are kept in cotton wool and others are given a last chance to stake their claim to be in the World Cup starting XV.

The two-time World Cup winners -- runners-up in 2015 -- take on a Samoan side ranked just 16 and who only just scraped into this month’s tournament after a poor qualification campaign, eventually overcoming minnows Germany in a two-leg play-off.

But they arrived in Sydney on the back of wins over Tonga and a New Zealand Heartland XV, and with knowledge that they have stunned the Wallabies in the city before -- winning 32-23 eight years ago in one of their greatest ever triumphs.

Only fly-half Tusi Pisi remains of that side, but Australia have three survivors in scrum-half Will Genia, prop Sekope Kepu and utility Adam Ashley-Cooper.

All four will start with Ashley-Cooper keen to focus on the future.

“The guys that were involved in ‘11 would reflect back on that for sure, you do with losses over your career,” he said.

“But it’s eight years later now, a long time ago, and all we’re focused on is basically putting into practice what we’ve been doing over the past two weeks.”

The last 10 days have been spent in New Caledonia working on fixing the problems that led to a heavy 36-0 defeat to the All Blacks in Auckland last month, with the New Zealand pack outmuscling their arch-rivals.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is expecting a fast and physical game from the Samoans and opted not to play the likes of Michael Hooper, Kurtley Beale, Samu Kerevi, Allan Alaalatoa, Christian Lealiifano or Izack Rodda so close to the World Cup.

Instead his team includes six players who are not even going to Japan, along with others on the fringes, like Bernard Foley and Jack Dempsey, who have been handed a final crack at impressing enough to be in the World Cup starting line-up. Cheika said he had a good idea of what the team would be for Australia’s World Cup opener against Fiji on Sept. 21, but the Samoa Test could influence his thinking.

Without naming anyone, he said it was an opportunity for some to “put their hand up to be selected”, while the six not going to Japan, like Tom Banks, Luke Jones and Liam Wright, are seen as the future.

Agence France-Presse

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