Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at the Wallabies squad, Cheika addressing the Wallabies major flaw, the Waratahs new signing and a typhoon ready to cause havoc.
Wallabies make mass changes
The Wallabies have dropped captain and flanker Michael Hooper to the bench for their final pool stage clash against Georgia on Friday night.
Hooper has been relived from captaincy duties by David Pocock, who reverts to his favoured position of openside flanker, with Waratah Jack Dempsey slotting in as the other flanker.
It marks just the seventh time Hooper will start off the bench in what’s set to be his 99th Test appearance, and only the second time he’s done so with Cheika as the coach.
The move is amongst the ten personal changes that coach Michael Cheika has made to the side that defeated Uruguay 45-10 on Saturday, with Dempsey, Nic White, Matt To’omua, Kurtley Beale and Jordan Petaia the only players retained from the starting line-up, with the 19-year-old sensation swapping to the right-wing after his incredible debut.
The other big change that has been implemented is the selection of Matt To’omua at flyhalf.
To’omua replaces Christian Lealiifano in the number ten jersey, who has reverted back to the bench as part of the Wallabies workload management program for the 32-year-old as he continues his recovery from leukaemia.
It represents the third different starting flyhalf used by the Wallabies across the four pool games, with Lealiifano starting in the opening game against Fiji, before returning a fortnight later after Waratah Bernard Foley was selected to face Wales.
In further team news, Brumby Allan Alaalatoa has been rested in the front row and will be replaced by Sekope Kepu, with hooker Tolu Latu and Scott Sio returning to the starting team.
Despite his man of the match performance last week against Uruguay, Tevita Kuridrani has not retained his spot in the matchday 23, with Samu Kerevi and James O’Connor returning to the centres and Dane Haylett-Petty securing the final bench spot.
Wallabies (15-1): Kurtley Beale, Jordan Petaia, James O’Connor, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Matt To’omua, Nic White, Isi Naisarani, David Pocock (c), Jack Dempsey, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Scott Sio
Reserves: Jordan Uelese, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Adam Coleman, Michael Hooper, Will Genia, Christian Lealiifano, Dane Haylett-Petty
Cheika admits fault
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has done what was considered to be the impossible: admitting that his side has a problem.
Cheika has conceded that the Wallabies faces a real problem with the height of their tackling and must change defensive techniques in training this week to mitigate the issue.
The Wallabies were penalised four times in the opening half against Uruguay for high contact, losing Adam Coleman and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto to the sin bin within a 15 minute period.
Cheika has revealed that these issues have been addressed, stating that they must change their ways regardless of if they think it’s right or wrong.
“We are addressing that, we have some ideas on how we can be better at that,” Cheika said.
“Maybe because no matter how you see the pictures, the penalties are real, so you have got to do something, because whether it is truth or perception, we are getting the arm raised against us and we are losing players to the bin, for things that we shouldn’t be.
“So we have to improve our tackle area as a whole. Just getting a bit better there.
“We have worked on some things, I am not going to go into detail here but we have worked on a few things that we want to try and do in this game and we’ll see if they work for us, to give us a better defensive line and better height in the tackle.”
Centre Samu Kervei tried to pin-point the excessive amount of high tackles, putting it down to the side going away from its defensive structures and principles.
“For us we tend to go high when are not staying in our structure and our principles for our game, especially defensively,” Kerevi said.
“When we are going through our principles, our tackles will be fine. It’s just we are sitting back at times and we are creating that picture for those high tackles, and we’re reaching or whatever it is.
“But when we are moving forward as a team, we’re really happy with it.
“Sometimes it is just the nature of the game and the nature of the beast, that certain runs, guys dipping their heads, we can’t control that. All we can control is how we prepare for the tackle itself.”
Waratahs raid Rebel forces
New Waratahs coach Rob Penney has made his first signing, recruiting prop Tetera Faulkner from the Rebels.
The former Wallaby has signed a two-year deal to help bolster the rebuilding franchise’s forward pack, joining after his responsibilities with the Rising finish up.
Faulkner brings some much need experience to the Waratahs, with the 31-year-old set to bring up his 100th Super Rugby cap next year.
“Tetera’s 99 Super Rugby games speaks to his overall qualities as a player but more specifically his toughness and durability,” coach Rob Penney said.
“His scrummaging is really well regarded and the role he can play within our front-row group will be important next season.
“To have Tetera working alongside the likes of Tom Robertson and Harry Johnson-Holmes shows we’re making progress in gathering a group of players that will support and drive one another for success in what is a key area for us.”
“He’s played Test match rugby and understands what it takes to reach the pinnacle of our game, Tetera has a lot to offer and is a great addition to our squad for 2020.”
Faulkner was looking forward to representing a third Australian Super Rugby franchise, having spent stints at the Rebels along with the Force.
“Speaking with Tim [Rapp – NSWRU General Manager of Rugby] throughout this process has got me really excited about the prospect of being a Waratah,” Faulkner said.
“It’s an exciting time for the team with Rob [Penney] coming in and other changes around the squad, to be a part of that and hopefully deliver success to the [NSW] Waratahs is something I’m really striving to achieve.
“I was a part of the Academy here at the [NSW] Waratahs back in 2011 and while things have changed a lot since then, I still feel really comfortable coming back into the Super Rugby set up.”
There are real fears that a Typhoon heading towards Japan will have hazardous effects over the final round of pool games.
Typhoon Hagibis is set to bring high winds and heavy rain to southern parts of Japan on Saturday and Sunday, which could force a number of important matches to be moved or cancelled completely.
It has rapidly increased in projected severity over the past 24 hours, going from a tropical storm to a category five typhoon in the space of 24 hours.
According to The Weather Network website is the “strongest storm anywhere in the world” and could be the most destructive anywhere on earth this year.
World Rugby released a statement on Monday, suggesting that it was too early to predict its trajectory and there were robust contingency plans in place in case of the worst.
“While it is too early to determine the exact trajectory and impact, if any, of the typhoon at this early stage, as per previous typhoon warnings, we have a robust contingency programme in place in the event adverse weather looks likely to impact fixtures.” the statement said.
“We will continue to closely monitor this developing situation in partnership with our weather information experts, local authorities, transport providers and the teams, and will provide a further update tomorrow. Fans are advised to monitor official Rugby World Cup channels for any updates.”
This could have direct impacts on the Wallabies progression out of the pool stages, with first-placed Wales’ match against Uruguay in the potential firing line.
Rugby World Cup rules state that in abandoned matches both teams split the four points, taking two each.
If their game is cancelled (and Wales don’t get a bonus-point win over Fiji on Wednesday), the Wallabies could shoot to the top of Pool D with a bonus-point win over Georgia, whose game is expected to be unaffected.