Michael Cheika has described the Wallabies’ lead-up to the Rugby World Cup as “perfect” but that has only muddied the selection waters for their opening test against Fiji.
Cheika insists there are a host of contestable positions in his starting XV to face Fiji on Saturday and believes the pressure on selectors will be a constant throughout the tournament.
There are 30 fit players to choose from, with Suva-born outside centre Tevita Kuridrani declared “well back” by Cheika and in contention to face his native country.
Cheika said the effort given by every player at the pre-tournament camp in Noumea and again this week in Odawara had set up a vexed selection meeting on Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of competition for places in the team so far and I think that’s the way it’s going to stay, to be honest over the next seven weeks,” Cheika said in Odawara.
“That’s going to elevate the level of each player because I know everyone wants to play.
“You can just see it in the way guys are training, everyone wants to be a part of it.”
Despite Cheika’s comments, the majority of players employed in both Bledisloe Cup Tests against New Zealand last month will fancy their chances.
The most contention surrounds the right wing, both halves and the loose forwards – now that David Pocock is fit again.
A disjointed display against Samoa last Saturday drew criticism from former Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock, who lamented a predictable performance on attack.
Cheika bristled, pointing out the game fell three days after returning from the gruelling Noumea fitness camp.
“I didn’t see his comments but I don’t agree, to be honest,” Cheika said.
“I thought that we attacked pretty good, made a few mistakes off the back of a couple of weeks of hard training.
“Each to their own. What happens on the field is where the talking is done. We get our chance to talk on Saturday.”
Cheika said the Odawara camp had been “perfect” as a Japanese location out of the spotlight to mix hard work with relaxation.
He had noticed a lift in excitement from his players, who will travel to Sapporo on Wednesday.
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