Sydney - Coach
Michael Cheika on Friday said the Wallabies planned to be "unpredictable"
in Japan as he tapped uncapped back Jordan Petaia, 19, to become
Australia's youngest ever Rugby World Cup player and picked Adam Ashley-Cooper
for his fourth campaign.
Cheika opted for just two halfbacks, Will Genia and Nic White, in
his 31-man World Cup squad, meaning Brumbies No 9 Joe Powell and the
Waratahs' Nick Phipps miss out.
Another notable absentee was veteran hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, but
flank David Pocock, who hasn't played for seven months after injuring
his calf, was named, along with Bernard Foley and Tevita Kuridrani who
were overlooked in recent games.
Australia struggled through one of their worst years in decades in
2018 and have lost the services of star fullback Israel Folau, who was
sacked in May for posting homophobic comments online.
But this month's record 47-26 drubbing of New Zealand hinted at a
revival, despite last week's chastening 36-0 defeat in the return
Bledisloe Cup fixture in Auckland.
"We've become a really tight group and it was a very difficult
process in picking only 31 players, but I know each player selected will
travel to Japan with the full support of those team-mates who won't
board the flight," said Cheika.
"We have worked really hard at building each week and each game so
far this season, and play a brand of rugby that Australia would be proud
of and get every player contributing towards the outcome."
The line-up, captained by Michael Hooper, boasts 1 406 international
caps, 200 more than the squad which reached the final in 2015.
Eighteen players will be tasting World Cup action for the first time,
in contrast to the 35-year-old Ashley-Cooper, who will become only the
second Wallaby after George Gregan to play in four.
The dynamic Petaia can play from the wing or outside centre, but his
inclusion carries some risk after he missed much of the Super Rugby
season with injury.
The Queenslander is expected to make his debut in Australia's final
warm-up Test against Samoa in Sydney on September 7, where Pocock is
also tipped to return.
"I'd say we'll be a little bit unpredictable in Japan, that's a bit of our theme this year," said Cheika.
"At the World Cup, every game is a grand final. And how you approach
that - you don't look any further down the road that what's in front of
you," he added.
The Wallabies, beaten in the 2015 final by New Zealand but now ranked
just sixth in the world, have had mixed fortunes so far this year,
losing to South Africa in the Rugby Championship before beating
Despite last week's crushing defeat to New Zealand their form has
been an improvement on 2018, when they played 13 Tests and won just
In Japan, they face a tough Pool D that includes world number one
Wales, Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay. They open their campaign against Fiji
in Sapporo on September 21 ahead of a crunch clash with Wales a week
Asked what his message was to the team in Japan, skipper Hooper said: "Make it count."
"You never know when you might get another opportunity like this," he
"Make the most of it, love every day and enjoy it because if
you're enjoying it, it usually makes for good rugby too."
Australia's 2019 Rugby World Cup squad:
Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Jack Dempsey,
Folau Fainga'a, Michael Hooper (captain), Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Isi
Naisarani, David Pocock, Izack Rodda, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Rob Simmons,
Scott Sio, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese
Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Will Genia,
Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tevita
Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, James O'Connor, Jordan Petaia, Matt
Toomua, Nic White