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Foketi: Wallabies not there to make up the numbers at the Rugby World Cup

By AAP
Lalakai Foketi of Australia during the 2022 Autumn International test match between France and Australia at Stade de France on November 5, 2022 in Saint-Denis near Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Lalakai Foketi has boldly declared the Wallabies aren’t in France to make up the numbers and won’t be satisfied with anything less than winning the Rugby World Cup.

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The Australians are considered rank outsiders to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy for the first time since 1999 given they are winless from four Tests this year.

They will get a gauge of their status on Monday morning (AEST) in Paris in a warm-up match against the hosts, who are second favourites behind New Zealand to become world champions.

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Centre Foketi feels the team can prove the doubters wrong and win the title.

“Of course, that’s why we’re here and that’s why we play,” the 28-year-old said from Paris.

“It’s the biggest stage for the boys here and we didn’t come here just to take part.

“I’m sure that’s every team and they’re gunning for that title so it’s no different for us.”

Despite their poor record under Eddie Jones, who took over for his second stint as Wallabies coach this year, Foketi felt they were tracking well ahead of their opening pool match against Georgia at Stade de France on September 10 (AEST).

“If you watch our games closely, and internally, we know we’re heading in the right direction and everyone’s going to see that in the World Cup,” he said.

“We’re putting good performances in the first half, especially the last game in Dunedin and so I think we’re trending in the right direction.

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“It’s a World Cup so we’ll go game by game and I think it’s whoever improves the most can get into those quarter-finals and semi-finals with everything humming.”

Jones will name his team for the France game on Friday, with Foketi set to start at inside centre with Samu Kerevi still recovering from a broken hand.

Ben Donaldson appears likely for his first match of the year, at fullback, while Jones could also look to give some other fringe players game time.

Foketi was part of the Wallabies line-up in Paris who suffered a cruel one-point loss after a late France try on last year’s Spring tour.

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The NSW Waratahs ace said his memories of facing France were a “rollercoaster” of emotions.

Foketi finished off a stunning coast-to-coast try midway through the first half but was forced off five minutes later with a tour-ending leg fracture.

“Getting that try and all those emotions were really high and then the injury struck and it just changed,” he said.

“The boys flew off to Italy the next day and I had to fly home. It was bittersweet.

“It was a roller coaster – one of the highest highs in my career playing against France in France and then being on the next flight out to Sydney. It was tough.”

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finn 5 hours ago
Why the world needs a reverse Lions tour

I think there’s a lot of reasons this wouldn’t work, but if we’re just proposing fun things how about a “World Series” held the june/july following a world cup. The teams competing each four years would be: the current world champions The Pacific Islands The British & Irish Lions The World XV Barbarians FC to ensure all teams are fairly evenly matched, the current world champions would name their squad first; then The Pacific Islands would name next, and would be able to select any pacific qualified players not selected by the world champions, including players already “captured” by non-pacific nations who would otherwise have been eligible for selection (eg. Bundee Aki); the Lions would select next; and then The World XV and Barbarians FC would be left to fight over anyone not selected. Some people will point out that 5 teams is too many for a mid-year round robin, particularly as it would be nice to have a final as well; and they would be right! But because we’re just having fun here we’re going to innovate an entirely new format for rugby, where the round robin is played in one stadium over the course of one day, with each game lasting just 40 minutes with no half time or change of ends. The round robin decides the seedings for the knockouts, which are contested by all 5 teams in one stadium over the course of one day, according to the following schedule: Knockout Round 1: seed 5 v seed 4 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Quarter Final: winner of Round 1 v seed 3 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Semi Final: winner of Quarter Final v seed 2 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Final: winner of Semi Final v seed 1 (played as a standard 80 minute rugby match) for the round robin, teams would name a 15 man starting lineup and a 16 man bench. Substitutions during games can only be made for injuries, but any number of substitutions can be made between games. The same rules apply for the finals, except that we return to having a regular 8 man bench, and would allow substitutions as normal during the 80 minute final.

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