Michael Cheika doesn’t want his Wallabies players weighed down by World Cup thoughts when they hunt another treasured piece of silverware at Eden Park on Saturday.
The global tournament may be barely a month away but Cheika insists it has been far from his thoughts as he prepared and then selected his team this week for the Bledisloe Cup decider against New Zealand and he wants the players to know that.
After dissecting the 47-26 trans-Tasman rout in Perth, Cheika and his selectors concluded they’d stick with the same dominant starting XV aside from Adam Coleman’s promotion in place of the injured Rory Arnold.
Adam Ashley-Cooper and Liam Wright are handed their first possible shot at Test action this year, off the bench, but otherwise form has determined the team charged with ending 17 years of Bledisloe Cup torment.
And Cheika doesn’t want his players thinking they’re on trial for a seat to Japan.
“That’ll be something that we’re not really thinking about right now. That’ll look after itself on the day we have to name it,” Cheika said.
“None of this stuff’s a test for the players. We’re all in this together.
“We often see they’re going out there to get picked for the next game through performance. No. We’re going there to enjoy and win. That’s what you’re trying to do.”
It’s an approach that contrasts with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who has described the bold selection of Sevu Reece and George Bridge as a “pressure cooker” examination of the young wingers’ World Cup mettle.
“They’ve got so much talent, it doesn’t matter who they roll in, honestly,” he said.
“I’m not surprised by anyone who comes in and I know they’ve got quality in all of their departments.”
The Wallabies completed a low-key buildup in Melbourne before arriving on Thursday night in Auckland, where heavy rain is forecast for Saturday evening.
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