Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has had to have some difficult conversations in his time, but telling his incumbent skipper Stephen Moore that he wouldn’t be starting against Fiji, wasn’t one of them.
Force hooker, and Moore’s backup in recent times, Tatafu Polota-Nau has been rewarded for his strong Super Rugby form, relegating his skipper out of the starting side, with Michael Hooper taking the reins.
Cheika said, though, Moore was understanding of the choice, and the Test coach was adamant he was still considered the side's captain, though his younger teammate will likely be front and centre on Saturday.
“The one thing about Stephen Moore is this: He wants Australian rugby to be the best it possibly can. That's the one thing you know with that guy,” he said.
“He'll take the knock on the chin and I'm sure he'll be fighting back to get a spot in the side next week and we know the role that he's got to play from now right through to the World Cup.”
While Cheika is adamant Moore is in the Wallabies’ plans until 2019, he said that didn’t mean he would have a free ride to the World Cup.
“No one's guaranteeing anyone anything and he knows that more than anybody,” he said.
“That's our plan. How we do that? through the mix of guys that we've got and the competition we've got, that's how I want to see it roll.
“I want to see him challenged as well. What's the point in him going unchallenged? It's not going to be any good for him.
“If we're seriously thinking that he will go to the World Cup in '19, he has got to be challenged because that's going to be the thing that keeps him driving.”
The 34-year-old has certainly been challenged, with Polota-Nau and Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu in intimidting form, while Cheika flagged the possibility of U20s hooker Jordan Uelese potentially linking up with the squad after their World Championship campaign.
Moore is not the only one who has been overtaken on form, with only a handful of players from Australia’s last starting XV in December surviving for Saturday.
Competition is something Cheika has long talked about bringing and with this team, he’s walking the talk, with selections like Polota-Nau and Karmichael Hunt in the starting team.
“To get competition between players and young players in particular coming through, it can only make us better, it can't make us worse,” he said.
“I figure that's a positive thing to go with, try to create that competition.
“Sometimes you've got to force it but that's my role within all of this, to take responsibility for forcing that and take the positive or negative consequences that go with it.”
Hooper will have two new deputies on Saturday, as Cheika looks to grow the side’s leaders, with Bernard Foley and Brumbies co-captain Sam Carter the vice-captains.
“I think that's something we've missed as a team... everyone having their input and owning the game a little bit more from a player point of view,” he said.
“We're trying to create that atmosphere in our team that everyone can be very honest and that everyone's allowed to speak their mind and have a say because we all want to own what's going to happen afterwards.”
The Wallabies take on Fiji on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS. Buy tickets here.