MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Michael Cheika has declared his starting 15 for Australia’s World Cup bid nailed down but the Wallabies coach is likely to keep everyone guessing until days before their tournament opener against Fiji.
Australia plays the United States in Chicago on Saturday, seeking a big win over the rugby minnows to boost confidence before the global showpiece kicks off on Sept. 18 in England.
Cheika has rested a number of key players to allow the fringe members of his squad a chance to build match fitness but the 48-year-old is not viewing the clash at Soldier Field as another round of World Cup auditions.
“We have had a plan from a while back as to what we think we are going to be doing (against Fiji),” Cheika told Australian media in Chicago.
“Anything could happen but we are pretty comfortable with the plan we’ve got and what that first team looks like and our reasons for playing certain players in this game.
“Is there a player playing for his position? No.
“There is no guarantee that your plan is going to work but we definitely have one, contrary to popular opinion, and we are following it pretty much to the letter so far.”
Australia won the abridged Rugby Championship with three successive wins, including a rare victory over the All Blacks in Sydney, but was brought down to earth by the world champions in their last match at Eden Park, a 41-13 trouncing.
Preparations for a tilt at a third Webb Ellis Cup have since been low-key, with the training camp at the University of Notre Dame handing the players some relief from the spotlight since their farewell from Sydney a week ago.
Cheika has rested captain and hooker Stephen Moore and regular flankers David Pocock and Michael Hooper, with prop James Slipper to take the reins of a second-string side that should still comprehensively outclass the Eagles.