Bernard Foley is banking on his experience from the 2015 World Cup to help solidify his place as Australia’s first-choice No. 10 at this year’s tournament in Japan.
The Wallabies’ 2019 World Cup campaign kicks off on Saturday when they face Fiji in Sapporo, but 70-test Foley, who has been Australia’s premier option at first-five since his breakout season in 2014, appears to be on the outer of head coach Michael Cheika’s selection plans leading into the tournament.
The re-emergence of Brumbies playmaker Christian Lealiifano, whose stellar form in Super Rugby this year has earned him an international re-call after three years out of action at test level due to a battle with leukaemia, has seemingly pushed Foley out of pole position to start in the No. 10 jersey at Sapporo Dome in five days’ time.
However, speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Foley insisted that utilising the experience he picked up while steering the Wallabies to a runner-up finish in England four years ago will be vital if Australia are to be successful in Japan.
“That experience you can definitely hopefully count on that and use that and evolve that going into this World Cup,” he said.
“It’s a tournament-style World Cup and we don’t play a lot of them and that is why the World Cup is so immense and so great because pretty much each week becomes a knockout tournament.
“It’s about knowing that you can do all your preparation beforehand and then once you get into these style tournaments it is purely week by week.
“Not that we want to reflect on [the last World Cup] because that was a whole separate era and so many guys are here doing it for their first time, so we have to let them enjoy it but there definitely has been similarities of just the hard work.”
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After having edged out the outcasted Quade Cooper as the Wallabies’ starting pivot for many years under the stewardship of Cheika, Foley believes his newfound competition with Lealiifano is beneficial for not just the first-five duo, but the whole of the squad.
“It’s great competition and I’ve really enjoyed going up against [Christian] every time we’re training,” the 30-year-old said.
“We’ve been doing a lot of 15 on 15 and that means that the competition is there and it’s probably the same across all positions. Every position is being highly contested.
“It’s good to work with him on certain issues and how we’re seeing the game, how we can evolve our games and how that can benefit the side.”
While it’s yet to be revealed who will don the No. 10 jersey come Saturday, whoever make Australia’s starting XV isn’t likely to take this promising, star-studded Fijian outfit lightly.
“We know how dangerous they are especially out in the backline,” Foley told the SMH.
“They have got a number of players who have been playing up in the European competitions who have been setting them alight. They are so dangerous in turnover and counter-attack in that unstructured style of play when they are getting their offloads.
“Four years ago in the World Cup the physicality was another level. They brought a big physicality and took us on upfront at the set-piece as well in the scrums. For us, it’s a really great game for us to test ourselves in those areas.”
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