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Cheika calls up reinforcements from outside his RWC squad

By Alex Shaw

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Australia head coach Michael Cheika may have named his Rugby World Cup squad last month, although he has already had to call in reinforcements to help ease the workload on his players ahead of the tournament.

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Cheika included David Pocock in his 31-man squad, alongside Michael Hooper, Jack Dempsey and Isi Naisarani in the back row, as well as a couple of hybrid lock-flankers, such as Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.

In the back three, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge and Marika Koroibete are battling for positions, as well as a number of versatile options such as Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper, James O’Connor and the uncapped Jordan Petaia.

The 52-year-old has felt the need to bolster these two areas, however, with Brumbies back rower Rob Valetini and Rebels utility back Jack Maddocks both being brought in for the upcoming game against Samoa, in order to lighten the workload for players in the 31-man squad.

Valetini, 20, had his 2019 season disrupted by injury, although the powerful ball-carrier has been involved in Wallaby training camps and recently signed a two-year contract extension with Rugby Australia. The return to fitness of Pocock and the form of Naisarani both played against Valetini in his bid to make the 31-man squad last month.

Maddocks, 22, had a strong season for the Rebels, starting 14 games and grabbing 10 tries, and the Scots College product will feel unlucky to have missed the cut, particularly following Israel Folau’s axing by Rugby Australia. The return to Australia of O’Connor didn’t help Maddocks’ case, though, and he was narrowly denied a spot alongside his three Rebels back three teammates in Cheika’s final squad.

With the Wallabies set to take on Samoa in Sydney on Saturday, though, the door remains open for the pair.

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Few teams survive the grueling schedule of a Rugby World Cup without multiple injuries and if Valetini and Maddocks can take their opportunities this weekend, they will both be firmly in Cheika’s thoughts when he takes his initial 31-man squad north to Japan later this month.

Watch: Brian O’Driscoll tips England to win the Rugby World Cup

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Cheika calls up reinforcements from outside his RWC squad

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