Cheika's simple criteria for Test selection

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has a simple criteria for players who want to find their way into a gold jersey each week.

Cheika has made six changes to his starting team to face Italy and said only consistency at every level would keep them in the side.

“Selection comes from watching a series of games and I think we've seen the Super Rugby season and we are trying to pick the team based out of that,” he said.

“We need to see players performing consistently and when they perform well consistently, they're automatic selections.

“The message behind that is (produce) more consistent performances and then you'll be an automatic selection for the team.

“When we haven't had the consistent performances throughout the season we go, well, maybe we should be thinking about things in more detail.”

The Wallabies still have a handful of players missing who are considered among their best 23, including Samu Kerevi, Sean McMahon and Nick Phipps.

Cheika repeated his criticism of players’ fitness, an issue that harks back to Super Rugby, but said he felt club coaches were on the same page about improving their conditioning strategies.

“I think I’ve been pretty clear on that matter, we need to be fitter all round,” he said.

“I don’t think I’m speaking out of school there, because I spoke with the state coaches about it as well when we had our recent meeting and they agree.

“So, together we’ll work on getting that better next season so we’ve got plans that we’re connected in together so we don’t have to deal with that issue when it comes up here.

“It is faster and therefore it becomes bigger collisions, the game’s going faster, all those things happen.

“There’s more intensity in the training weeks because you’re  going to have more intensity in the game.”

Rory Arnold has overtaken his club captain to start against Italy. Photo: WalmsleyCheika wants to see his entire team on the front foot this weekend, off the back of improvements in fitness, and he’s expecting his selections of mammoth lock Rory Arnold and ball-carrying no. 8 Lopeti Timani to play a key role in that.

“I think off the back of last week - just being that little bit short last week - we need to be right at the front of the game - right at the gain line,” he said.

“We need to be at rucks before our opponent, really strong at the set piece, up in the defensive line before our opponent so we can get stuck in on Saturday."

Arnold and Adam Coleman are set to revive what became a regular combination in 2016, after the Brumbies lock sat on the bench in the past two Tests.

Though Cheika said ahead of the Melbourne Test against Fiji that Sam Carter and Adam Coleman might be a more complementary pairing, it’s unbridled aggression he wants to unleash against Italy.

“He's (Arnold) a big body and he knows I want him to bring that aggression to the game,” he said.

“He's strong at set piece, a strong ball carrier and a certain amount of aggression goes with being a guy that big in the tight five.

“That's what rugby is about - dominating those encounters and letting your backs get on the back of that.

“We looked at a slightly different mix this year - Carter has good Super Rugby form around his work rate and we went for a slightly different mix in having that combination on field and letting Rory complete games would be an option for us.”

The Wallabies take on Italy on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.