Rugby

Cheika acknowledges risky picks

2015-08-21 08:38
Michael Cheika (Gallo)

Sydney - Australia coach Michael Cheika acknowledged his Rugby World Cup squad selections may been seen as risky, but the 31-man squad he named on Friday is part of a clear plan to progress from a tough Pool A - dubbed the "group of death".

Cheika surprised some observers by naming an uncapped prop in Toby Smith and inexperienced flanker Sean McMahon in his squad that included just two scrumhalves and omitted former captain James Horwill.

"We made the decisions that we think gives us the best balance with the draw that we have," Cheika said in Sydney.

Cheika rotated his starting team throughout the recent Rugby Championship, prompting suggestions he was still searching for his first choice starting side.

But Cheika dismissed the suggestions, despite omitting Horwill and Brumbies' scrumhalf Nic White - both of whom played key roles in helping Australia win this year's Rugby Championship.

"I know that because we have been changing things around it means we don't know (our best team) but I can assure you that we are working off a plan since we (came) back from the spring tour and I'm sticking to that plan," said Cheika.

Horwill, who captained Australia at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, was overlooked despite offering critical experience of playing in northern hemisphere conditions and Cheika said the 58-cap lock was unfortunate.

"He really played himself into contention," said Cheika.

"Maybe he was a bit further away at the start of the Rugby Championship but the balance of the team that we wanted required just the two line-out orientated locks and we have that."

Should Australia avoid any injuries in the warm-up to the beginning of the World Cup on Sept. 18, Cheika will go into the tournament with just two specialist scrumhalves.

He acknowledged the selection could be a gamble but he was confident veteran back Matt Giteau could deputise if needed, despite mostly playing at flyhalf and inside centre.

Australia will likely need to beat at least one of England or Wales during the pool stage at the World Cup, with the real test in how the Wallabies compete in the forwards, particularly against an England side that have historically targeted and then dominated a weak Australian scrum.

Cheika, however, said the work of former Argentine hooker Mario Ledesma was beginning to bear fruit in the scrum, though they would still need further improvement to claim their first Web Ellis trophy since 1999.

"We have improved in a lot of areas that we needed to," said Cheika. "But we still have improvement to make and we have time."

Australia Rugby World Cup squad:

Backs

Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Drew Mitchell, Henry Speight, Joe Tomane, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Matt Giteau, Matt Toomua, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Nick Phipps

Forwards

Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Ben McCalman, Sean McMahon, Scott Fardy, Kane Douglas, Dean Mumm, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Stephen Moore (captain), Tatafu Polota-Nau, Greg Holmes, Sekope Kepu, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Toby Smith

Read more on:    wallabies  |  rwc 2015  |  michael cheika  |  rugby
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