The Wallabies will be under big pressure to deliver when they take on Italy in Padua on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Australia’s first loss to Wales in 10 years – their eighth defeat in 11 Tests in 2018 – intensified the pressure on coach Michael Cheika and captain Michael Hooper.
Against Italy, though, the Wallabies have a 100% winning record and Cheika will be hoping for more of the same. Despite Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle’s assurances that the coach’s job is safe until after next year’s World Cup, the 51-year-old knows a lot is riding on the outcome of this Test.
And Cheika has made the changes he feels are necessary to get the job done against Italy. He has finally deserted his experiment of playing Israel Folau out wide. The return of veteran wing Adam Ashley-Cooper after a two-year absence has seen Folau return to fullback. The inclusion of both players in their regular positions could be the key to unlocking an otherwise misfiring Wallabies backline.
Australia’s centres – Samu Kerevi and Bernard Foley – will need to be at their best to contain the dangerous Michele Campagnaro, who has been in superb touch for the Azzurri.
There are, of course, other areas of concern for the visitors. With the exception of David Pocock, Australia’s forwards have been ineffective and struggling for form. Loose forwards Hooper, Ned Hanigan, Jack Dempsey and Pete Samu – who have all been rotated in and out of the starting lineup – have been playing below par since the start of the Test season. They have to be of greater assistance to Pocock.
By contrast, Italy’s back rowers, including Braam Steyn and Johan Meyer, were excellent against Georgia last weekend. They will be chomping at the bit to have a go at the Wallabies and if recent performances are anything to go on, they may just come out on top in the forward exchanges.
Italy – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Abraham Jurgens Steyn, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (c), 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Subs: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Cherif Traore’, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Johan Meyer, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Luca Morisi.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Jermaine Ainsley, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Will Genia, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Dane Haylett-Petty.
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