Cheika looking to examine depth against France

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has dismissed the suggestion he is resting players for the Wallabies France Test, rather taking an opportunity to see some other players.

Eleven new faces have come into the Wallabies’ starting XV, with Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty and Michael Hooper all sitting out the Stade de France showdown.

Some of those left out of the squad have been given the option to sit out training this week, 13 Tests into a 15 Test season, that has been near continuous since August.

Michael Hooper was valiant against the Springboks in Pretoria. Photo: Getty Images“We gave some guys who have had big loads some time off during the week,” he said.

“Maybe mentally, that helps. Just that ability to choose - like you don't have to come to training if you don't want.

“A bit of freedom in the middle of game on game on game on game.

“I actually that physically we're just starting to find our fitness level for the season. And that's going to be important because there's going to be plenty of action on Saturday.”

While those training workloads have been changed, Cheika said rest wasn’t his motivator for bringing in fresh faces for the Paris clash, the only Test on the tour that doesn’t count towards a potential Grand Slam for the Wallabies.

“I don’t think I’ve really rested anyone, I think we’ve just made choices,” - Michael Cheika.

“All those guys could’ve played this week and gone on and played in the next two games as well.

“I think I’ve just made some decisions to say I want to see how some other guys play at the top level.

“If we’re serious about growing our depth, that’s one thing, building them into the squad, which we have done.”

David Pocock will captain the team, with Stephen Moore on the bench and Cheika said there was no temptation to give the 63-Test flanker a week off for the sake of precaution.

“There's two things: resting guys because you're scared they're going to get injured, which we don't do. That's not what we're doing,” he said.

“That's not what footy is about - you go out and play and that's what happens.

“Maybe some of the guys we decided to leave out have been through high loads throughout the whole season. but that still doesn't mean they won't have a part to play. you see some of the names that are on the finishers bench.

“This is an important game, for us and for the depth we want to be able to have in our team where we can make some changes and play at an improved level.”

Stuart Hogg was impressive but it was a painful loss for Scotland. Photo: Getty ImagesCheika was disappointed with his side’s focus at the start of last weekend’s tight win against Scotland but he was adamant on Thursday that there wouldn’t be the same issues in Paris.

“We’ve worked really hard and given people opportunities to go and take a break and clear the mind and some guys have had more opportunity because they’ve had a few days off during the week,” he said.

“I believe that we’re preparing very well.

“Our goal is to always prepare the best we can so we can go out on the field and not fear anything. Don’t fear failing, just go out there and do it because you’ve prepared well and believe in what you’re going to do.”

Australia vs France will be screened LIVE on SBS and Foxtel’s beIn Sports 3 (channel 515) kicking off at 7am Sunday AEDT.