Key Wal­la­bies se­lec­tion de­ci­sions loom for Michael Cheika

The Guardian Australia - - Sport - Aus­tralian Associated Press

Wal­la­bies coach Michael Cheika has im­por­tant de­ci­sions to re­veal as he looks to fire up his strug­gling side for Satur­day’s open­ing Spring Tour Test against Wales in Cardiff.

Cheika will an­nounce his team on Thurs­day evening (AEDT) as he looks to main­tain the Wal­la­bies’ 10-year un­beaten run against the Welsh – who head into the game on the back of six suc­ces­sive wins.

With the 2019 World Cup com­ing into ever sharper fo­cus, time for ex­per­i­ments and ex­cuses is fast run­ning out and the Wal­la­bies must string good per­for­mances to­gether on this tour

De­spite his brain snap against New Zealand’s Codie Tay­lor that re­duced Aus­tralia to 14 men in the third Bledis­loe in Yoko­hama last week, the abra­sive Tolu Latu could claim the start­ing hooker role ahead of vet­eran Tatafu Polota-Nau and young­ster Fo­lau Fainga’a.

An im­pres­sive cameo from Samu Kerevi against the All Blacks in Ja­pan fol­low­ing a long in­jury lay-off has put him in line to start at out­side cen­tre with Is­rael Fo­lau likely to move back to the wing in place of Sefa Naivalu.

Cheika’s de­ci­sion to in­clude vet­eran out­side back Adam Ash­ley-Cooper in his squad for the Euro­pean leg of a long and dif­fi­cult year, also mud­dies the se­lec­tion wa­ters.

Aus­tralia have shipped 82 points in their last two matches against Ar­gentina and New Zealand and Ash­leyCooper, who has never lost to the Welsh in nine en­coun­ters, has a game to keep a strong home at­tack in check.

The 34-year-old has trained well this week at the team’s base in New­port, just out­side Cardiff, and his stout de­fen­sive skills should earn him at least a place on the bench.

Ash­ley-Cooper said he’s ready to go if called upon by Cheika. “I’ve only been here a week to re­ally set­tle in and find my feet and ob­serve,” he said. “I want to just con­trib­ute in a way where I’m pre­par­ing how I would usu­ally pre­pare for a Test match.

“At this stage it’s a mat­ter of find­ing my feet and con­tribut­ing the best way I can.”

Hard-run­ning lock Adam Cole­man has train ed all week after sit­ting out the 37-20 loss to New Zealand in Ja­pan two weeks ago. The Mel­bourne Rebels skip­per has trained fully all week and will be a wel­come pres­ence in the se­cond row against Wales skip­per Alun Wyn Jones.

Michael Cheika talks to his play­ers dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion in New­port be­fore Satur­day’s Test in Cardiff. Pho­to­graph: Dan Mul­lan/GettyImages

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