SYDNEY, March 18 (Reuters) - The Wallabies will play Samoa in Sydney in early September before heading off to Japan for the World Cup, Rugby Australia said on Monday.
The twice World champions, currently sixth in the world rankings after three underwhelming seasons, will take on the Pacific islanders at the new Western Sydney Stadium in Paramatta on Sept 7.
Australia last met Samoa in Sydney ahead of the 2011 World Cup, when the visitors outmuscled their hosts at the Olympic Stadium to secure their first win over the Wallabies.
“With the World Cup in our sights this year we really want to build some momentum to help take our game up a level or two, I think that’s really important for us,” Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said in a news release.
“We will have a few new tricks up our sleeve this season so we might look a little different to what most people may expect.”
The 32-23 victory for Samoa over Australia in 2011 brought a temporary end to the international career of flyhalf Matt Giteau, who was left out of the World Cup squad by Robbie Deans and subsequently headed to France.
Giteau was brought back into the fold by Cheika ahead of the last World Cup and was an integral part of the team that sprung a major surprise by reaching the Twickenham final, where they lost to New Zealand.
The Wallabies have had a harder time of it in the last three seasons, winning only 17 of 42 tests and losing home series to both England and Ireland.
Scott Johnson will take up his role as Director of Rugby above Cheika next week, having concluded his duties in a similar post with the Scottish Rugby Union at the end of the Six Nations.
“I’d say we’ll be going into this season’s tournaments - the Rugby Championship, the Bledisloe Cup and the World Cup – as underdogs but we will be doing everything we can to make 2019 our year,” Cheika said.
Australia will also host matches against Argentina in Brisbane and the All Blacks in Perth in the truncated Rugby Championship in July and August.
The Wallabies have been drawn with Wales, Fiji, Georgia and Uruguay at the World Cup and Cheika said taking on the Samoans, who are pooled with Ireland, Scotland, Japan and Russia, would be the perfect preparation.
“They have a mix of razzle-dazzle and physicality which will be exactly what we need before stepping out against Fiji in Sapporo,” he added.
“In front of our home crowd in a brilliant new stadium in Western Sydney it should double as plenty of fireworks as well as plenty of fun for everyone.”
Australia take on Fiji in their World Cup opener on Sept 21. (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)