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Wallabies spots still up for grabs following Samoan scare

Increasing competition for starting spots in his World Cup team is proving more of a pleasure than a headache for Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

Australia wrapped up their pre-World Cup Test campaign with a 34-15 win over Samoa in Sydney on Saturday.

A good first-half display, which was rewarded with a 22-3 halftime lead, was offset by an unconvincing second-half performance, with Samoa scoring the first 12 points, before two late tries pushed the home side clear.

Cheika said the game had been a really good hit out for the Wallabies, who now have a 3-2 record this year.

Among the most competitive areas of the team are the back row and halves.

Back rowers David Pocock and Jack Dempsey both performed well in their first Test since last November while recalled halves Will Genia and Bernard Foley also got a tick from their coach.

Asked if the game had provided more selection headaches, Cheika said: “No headaches mate, you want to have as many players as possible competing for the spots.

“It’s exactly where you want to be going into the tournament.

“I think realistically what we’re feeling now is we just can’t wait for it to start, which is probably something you may not have said six or seven months ago.”

With regular captain and openside flanker Michael Hooper rested and blindside flanker Lukhan Salakaia-Loto performing well on Saturday, Cheika said there was good competition for the back row spots.

“‘Everyone is looking to step it up and that’s what we want, I think that gives us good options” Cheika said.

Halfback Genia and five-eighth Foley have dominated their positions since the last World Cup, but in recent Tests have been displaced by Nic White and Christian Lealiifano respectively.

Cheika was non-committal about who was ahead in the race for the halves spots.

“You’ve just got to make the right choices on the day, but maybe there isn’t a wrong choice because whoever you pick, they know the competition is there, they are going to be doing their absolute best,” Cheika said.

While Samoa had some success against the Wallabies’ scrum in the second half, Cheika said he was bemused his side didn’t get more penalties awarded in their favour.

But he was upbeat with the way Pocock came through almost 60 minutes in his first game since March.

“It will take him a few games to get re-acclimatised to the pace of things probably but he’s a very quick learner,” Cheika said.

Lock Adam Coleman came off with a thumb injury, but Cheika said he hadn’t suffered any serious damage.

“It will teach him to pass the ball a bit quicker next time because he took his time,” Cheika said.

“The wheels were turning inside his head and the next thing you know he was clattered from the side.”

AAP

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Wallabies spots still up for grabs following Samoan scare