Senior Wallabies say they’ve bought into coach Michael Cheika’s competition-breeds-success approach at the Rugby World Cup, believing any potential pitfalls have been sidestepped.
Cheika has adopted the mantra that if players aren’t certain about their selection it will get the best out of them in Japan.
His team for Friday’s last pool game against Georgia in Shizuoka has another experimental feel, even though the quarter-finals arrive just a week later.
Experienced outside back Dane Haylett-Petty agreed the new approach was out of character for Cheika, whose 2015 World Cup team reached the final on the back of routinely fielding the same core team.
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Haylett-Petty said the players had adapted to the new dynamic and there hadn’t been a hint of disharmony through the first three weeks.
He described the squad as the tightest he’s been involved with.
“Cheik has, on purpose, picked a squad that’s really competitive, and while we’re really pushing each other to get better, we’ve been fighting for spots the whole way along,” Haylett-Petty said.
“He definitely picked and stuck a bit more in the past but that’s the strategy he’s gone with and I do think it’s working well.
“You’ve seen players given an opportunity and take that opportunity.”
He agreed there was a risk that, given the effective trial nature of the pool games, some players may have over-played their hand at the expense of team performance.
“I suppose that can be a danger but I don’t feel that’s been the case,” Haylett-Petty said.
“There’s probably a whole lot of debate about who should start and who should finish. I think that’s great and you can tell things are building in the right direction.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 9, 2019
Cheika was defensive when it was suggested Australia’s slow start to matches could have been caused by his regular chopping and changing.
Five-eighth has been rotated every week, with the versatile Matt To’omua getting a first tournament start there against Georgia, ahead of specialists Christian Lealiifano and Bernard Foley.
Questioned over whether the changes explained a lack of cohesion early in games, Cheika pointed to other reasons, most notably a lack of discipline and the failure to capitalise on chances.
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