Michael Cheika has named his 31-man Australia squad to go to the World Cup next month in Japan and it is loaded with interesting stories. There are players across the squad that have overcome adversity and others that have been given a chance by the head coach.
James O’Connor has made it after his six-year exile from the national team, and after playing in the northern hemisphere with the Sale Sharks only a matter of months ago.
The 35-year-old Adam Ashley-Cooper also returns for his fourth World Cup after his Test career looked over after two seasons with Bordeaux. David Pocock, too, makes the team after missing the majority of the Super Rugby season and all of the Rugby Championship with a calf problem.
However, the most remarkable story is Christian Leali’ifano’s inclusion in the squad after overcoming leukemia in 2016. Many would have thought that his rugby career was over with such a diagnosis, but a short stint with Ulster marked his comeback before he returned with the Brumbies.
After guiding the ACT to the Super Rugby semi-finals this season calls for the 31-year-old’s return to the Test set-up intensified. What is even more impressive is that he is now heading to Japan probably as the Wallabies first choice fly-half after a decent Rugby Championship.
World Cup Squad Film
CD: Kannon Rajah | Film: James Joel | Edit: Alvin Dang | Assist: Chris Cao pic.twitter.com/UXuWLpOC2f
— Qantas Wallabies (@qantaswallabies) August 23, 2019
His international career will end after the World Cup, as he will move to Japan, so it will be his swansong to an incredible story.
Fans on social media are talking about Leali’ifano’s comeback story, describing it as “inspirational” as it is something that transcends rugby and is an impressive feat in any walk of life.
Another story talked about on Twitter is uncapped 19-year-old Jordan Petaia’s rise to fame and inclusion in the squad. The centre played just two Super Rugby games in 2019 before a foot injury ended his season, but he had clearly done enough to impress Cheika after being on the European tour in 2018.
His only full 80 minutes of the season against the Highlanders in February was a breathtaking performance where the New Zealand outfit simply could not handle him. Despite missing almost the entirety of the Super Rugby season and being still without a Test cap, there is so much hype around him.
The teenager’s rise to fame is yet another compelling story in this Wallabies squad. This is what has been said:
Lealiifano’s journey – wow. Inspirational
— Philip Bredin (@philbredin) August 22, 2019
It’s one hell of a story, isn’t it. Extraordinary & inspiring
— Dominic Ward (@DominicWard14) August 23, 2019
Christian Lealiifano's story from battling cancer to the rugby world cup is a touching one…. The wallabies team.https://t.co/Eiv0q3hP4q
— Ruben Steyne (@kihumuroruben) August 23, 2019
— Corey. (@seasallen) August 22, 2019
Largely expected except for the teenage phenom Petaia whose got me excited. https://t.co/1iV82XdGm4
— Captain Peacock (@chippigeof) August 23, 2019
Great to see Petaia included. An investment in the present and the future. AAC won’t let anybody down. His wealth of talent, knowledge and experience will be a great asset.
— Matthew Ward (@mward1246) August 23, 2019
There was not a lot of hope among Wallabies fans a few months ago for their chances at the World Cup, but a dominant victory over the All Blacks two weeks ago in Perth has suddenly given a glimmer of hope for Cheika’s team.
Despite losing heavily to the All Blacks a week later at Eden Park, there were enough signs in the Championship to show that Australia can be a threat in Japan.
WATCH: Captain Michael Hooper talks after Michael Cheika announced the Australian World Cup squad
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