CHICAGO – Australia scrumhalf Nick Phipps won’t be underestimating the United States in a Rugby World Cup warmup match Saturday at Soldier Field.
U.S. coach Mike Tolkin has said the Eagles, ranked 16th in the world, won’t be intimidated by the second-ranked Wallabies. That doesn’t surprise Phipps.
“They never would be,” Phipps told Australia’s Fairfax Media this week at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, where the Wallabies held a training camp. “They should cause a couple of upsets at the World Cup.”
Phipps said the Wallabies watched videotape of the Eagles’ 24-19 loss to English club Harlequins in Philadelphia last Sunday.
“They have some very big, dominant forwards,” Phipps said. “They have got some really big, tall timber in the second row. They also have got a couple of centers that are hard runners and are quite skillful in the offload area as well. They have got threats all around the park.”
Phipps was included in Australia’s starting XV for Saturday’s match. James Slipper will fill in as captain for Stephen Moore.
Australia coach Michael Cheika is using the match against the Americans as a warmup for the Rugby World Cup, which starts in England on Sept. 18, and is experimenting with his lineup.
Backrower Ben McCalman and inside center Matt Giteau were selected as vice captains this week. Both players are returning to the starting XV, while forwards Tatafu Polota-Nau, Kane Douglas and Sean McMahon and backs Joe Tomane and Kurtley Beale were picked for their first starting appearances of the season.
“This is a really important match for us as a group, especially with a couple of boys making their debuts,” said Slipper, the first prop to lead the Wallabies since 1966-67.
Tolkin said the Americans will not harbor any bad memories from the last time they played a test match against one of the big Southern Hemisphere teams at Soldier Field. Last November, 61,500 watched as the New Zealand All Blacks thrashed the Eagles 74-6.
“To play at this level and get ready to walk into a World Cup you can’t be intimidated,” Tolkin told Fairfax Media. “Our guys won’t be, with all due respect to the Wallabies.”
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5