TEAM NEWS: "Logical" for Wallabies to test new players as Rugby Championship rolls on: Cheika

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

UPDATE: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says it's only "logical" that the team should give different players a look-in as the Rugby Championship unfolds after naming a reshuffled side to take on the Pumas in Brisbane.

Australia has named a very different backline for their second Rugby Championship Test this weekend, with Will Genia, Christian Lealiifano, Kurtley Beale and Marika Koroibete all coming into the starting team.

Leallifano, James O'Connor and Luke Jones will all make their returns to the Test after long stints in the Test wilderness, while Beale will start at fullback for the first time since 2017.

The back to the future vibe is becoming a regular one in this Australian season, with Lealiifano (1125 days since last Test), O'Conor (2140 days) and Jones (1701 days), joining James Slipper (1020) and Nic White (1435) in being handed Wallabies jerseys after long absences from the international arena.

Brumbies skipper Lealiifano hasn't played for the Wallabies since 2016's England series, the beginning of a well-documented journey for the revered flyhalf.

Lealiifano was diagnosed with leukaemia and underwent a public battle with the disease before making a remarkable comeback to Super Rugby, and now his form has earned him a Test spot.

O'Connor will come off the pine to earn his first Test cap since 2013, after returning to the Wallabies fold in Brisbane three weeks ago and travelling with the squad to South Africa.

Christian Lealiifano will make his Test return in Brisbane. Photo: Walmsley

Genia will start in his final Suncorp Stadium Test before he retires from international rugby at the end of 2019, while Marika Koroibete replaces Dane Haylett-Petty on the wing.

Cheika said the selectors had a plan for how they wanted the teams to roll out over the Rugby Championship, looking to balance the chance to give different players a run with trying to ensure the strongest team was fielded each week.

"We've got a bit of a plan on how we want to follow with selections and what the strategy is," he said.

"I think it's only logical that now, we would use this opportunity to give everyone a chance to play footy.

"There's that, there's also making sure everyone's getting rugby as well, as opposed to not getting rugby, but when it all boils down to it, the view is to go out there and perform Saturday night and win the Test match. "

A host of players - Rob Valetini, Jack Maddocks, Jack Dempsey and Joe Powell - will also return to club rugby with Cheika's focus on given as many players the chance to play rugby as possible.

"Everyone we can is getting a game this week, we've sent a few guys back to play club footy this week as well so we're mixing and matching around so everyone's getting some football," he said.

"It's just the nature of the way it is, some teams will make finals, some teams won't in club rugby, so we've got to be creative in how we keep everyone alive around getting their footy, that contact and the match environment up.

"But we've done it before and we'll be able to create the environments and the opportunities for players to get a game, whether it's here with us or somewhere in club rugby or when NRC starts as well.

Scott Sio will return to the side after being ruled out with an adductor injury in South Africa, in the only change to the forward pack for this weekend's match.

Kurtley Beale will start at fullback for the Wallabies on Saturday night. Photo: WalmsleyBeale has been elevated to the starting fullback spot with Tom Banks out of the 23 this weekend.

Cheika said that change was about seeing how Beale slotted in as a starter at fullback, quick to praise Banks' performance against the Springboks last weekend.

"He's been training really hard and he's fit as I've seen him for a long time, so that's always a good sign with KB," he said.

"Then he's enjoying his footy, you could see that when he came on in a difficult situation last week, he made a lot of impact and obviously deserved the chance to play.

"In saying that, I thought Banks was good last week as well."

Cheika said Beale would bring a different element to fullback in Brisbane, and seeing him from the outset could give Wallabies selectors a clearer idea of their World Cup picture.

"That's good for us - they play different roles, 'he said.

"We'll definitely see that, the way Kurtley plays, I think, but in a slightly different role. I

"t's been a while since he started a Test at fullback for Australia, so it's going to a good chance for him."

Tolu Latu has been named on the bench, ahead of Jordan Uelese with Luke Jones and O'Connor the other two inclusions on the pine. 

The Pumas named their team earlier on Thursday.

The Wallabies host Argentina at Suncorp Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on Network Ten, FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports  and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.


IN: Scott Sio, Christian Lealiifano, Marika Koroibete, Luke Jones, James O'Connor

OUT: Harry Johnson-Holmes, Bernard Foley, Dane Haylett-Petty, Tom Banks, Jack Dempsey

Wallabies to face Argentina

1. Scott Sio (55 Tests)

2. Folau Fainga’a (8 Tests)

3. Sekope Kepu (104 Tests)

4. Izack Rodda (18 Tests)

5. Rory Arnold (20 Tests)

6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (12 Tests)

7. Michael Hooper (c) (92 Tests)

8. Isi Naisarani (1 Test)

9. Will Genia (101 Tests)

10. Christian Lealiifano (19 Tests)

11. Marika Koroibete (20 Tests)

12. Samu Kerevi (vc) (26 Tests)

13. Tevita Kuridrani (59 Tests)

14. Reece Hodge (34 Tests)

15. Kurtley Beale (84 Tests)


16. Tolu Latu (12 Tests)

17. James Slipper (87 Tests)

18. Taniela Tupou (12 Tests)

19. Rob Simmons (95 Tests)

20. Luke Jones (3 Tests)

21. Nic White (23 Tests)

22. Matt To’omua (43 Tests)

23. James O’Connor (44 Tests)