Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says his side has focused on being unpredictable this year after naming his 31-man squad for the World Cup,
Of the 31-man squad, 18 will be featuring in their first Rugby World Cup campaign while 13 have been there at least once before.
The squad has a balance between veterans in Adam Ashley-Cooper and David Pocock and rookies in the uncapped Jordan Petaia and three-Test hooker Jordan Ulese.
‘I’d say we’ll be a little bit unpredictable in Japan, that’s a bit of our theme this year,’ Cheika said. ‘At the World Cup, every game is a grand final. And how you approach that– you don’t look any further down the road that what’s in front of you.’
Cheika said that the highly-rated Petaia, who has missed most of the season with a foot injury, had shown enough during his limited game-time to warrent his inclusion.
‘He came on the (2018 November) tour as a development player and then was literally an inch away from making his Test debut against Italy until he got a slight hamstring strain in training on the Tuesday and we didn’t want to risk that for him going forward.
‘Then he was close the week after in England, again the injury (kept) him out and then he was very close to getting selected here in the second New Zealand game. So, we made that choice and I think he’s just impressed me with his durability and his ability to learn fast.
‘He’s just getting straight into the team’s way of play and he’s got a good connection with the lads. He’s fitted in really nicely so I see so much potential there, it’s about getting some of that over the next two months.’
Meanwhile, Ashley-Cooper will become just the second Wallaby after George Gregan to play in a fourth consecutive World Cup despite limited minutes in the Rugby Championship. Cheika said Ashley-Cooper’s versatility and experience earned him a place on the flight to Japan.
‘If you look at the composition of the squad – 18 who have never been to a World Cup and 13 who have. So, we’ll definitely be looking at those 13 to have an impact because that little bit of extra experience makes those younger players who haven’t been there feel comfortable enough to express themselves and go for it.
‘On the field, I think the thing that probably got him into that space was his defensive knowledge, his communication in defence and making sure we’ve got the ability to have someone who can cover 13, wing spots in a possible finishers or if he’s starting he can move around the team from 13 to wing, because that’s quite important to have in the squad.’
Australia will fly to Noumea on Friday night for a 10-day camp before returning to Sydney to face Samoa at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta on Saturday September 7.
The Wallabies start their World Cup campaign against Fiji on 21 September.
Photo: Stuart Walmsley/Rugby Australia