Australia v Fiji - Rugby World Cup 2019: Group D
Australia v Fiji - Rugby World Cup 2019: Group D

Wallabies set to axe halves after Wales debacle

Unwanted for Australia's biggest pool match at the World Cup, Christian Lealiifano and Nic White will be reunited for Saturday's must win World Cup clash with Uruguay, The Daily Telegraph understands.

It might be a week too late after the decision by the Australian selectors to drop the pair for last week's clash with Wales backfired spectacularly, but with the cost of that defeat likely to be no more than a tougher quarter-final opponent, it's not too late to save the Wallabies' campaign.

 

The first choice pair coming into the World Cup, Lealiiafano and White were replaced by Will Genia and Bernard Foley after struggling in Australia's opening match win over the Fiji in Sapporo.

It didn't work as both Genia and Foley had their own problems in Sunday's loss to Wales, so the selectors have decided to revert back to Plan A and give their original pair another shot.

Genia will move back to the bench, where he used his experience so effectively against Fiji, but Foley, once Australia's go-to man in a crisis, will miss out altogether, with Matt Toomua preferred as the utility back up after his outstanding performances off the bench.

 

Will Genia and Bernard Foley are set for the axe. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images
Will Genia and Bernard Foley are set for the axe. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

 

There have been calls for Toomua to be given the chance to start at five-eighth to try and cement a place at No.10 but with the pool phase already half over, time is running out for more tinkering.

There will be some changes in the backrow as well, with Jack Dempsey to start at blindside flanker, though these have more to do with managing players' workloads than major changes ahead of the quarter-finals.

While the Wallabies have to win their remaining two pool matches against Uruguay and Georgia, the team selection has taken on a double-edged sword after the loss to Wales effectively ruined Australia's chances of topping the group standings.

While the selectors plan to rest some frontline players and give some game time to the squad members who haven't played yet, they also want to finetune some of their key combinations for the quarter-final.

White said it was difficult to compare the performances of starters with replacements because of the state of the game at the time but everyone was happy to do whatever was required.

"In these conditions everyone gets pretty tired and you're coming on with fresh legs so it's exciting and it's a different role but one that Willy had really good pay in the first week," White said.

 

Jack Dempsey is set for a maiden World Cup debut. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Jack Dempsey is set for a maiden World Cup debut. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

 

"Obviously there was some tired bodies on the weekend and I came on. It's a different role but one that either one of us can play.

"When you start there is a degree of unknown but when you sit on the bench you can see the game unfold a little. You talk amongst each other and then when you get on you've seen a few things.

"It's just different for the finishers and we're getting a lot of pay there; whoever wears whatever jersey they can do the job starting or finishing through the whole team. We've confidence in everyone and anyone to do the job."

 

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