SYDNEY, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Australia’s players need to show the same intensity expected in the opening Rugby Championship clash on Aug. 18 when they face a Super Rugby selection in Sydney on Friday, according to coach Michael Cheika.
An extended Wallabies squad face a selection from the country’s Super Rugby teams at Leichhardt Oval in order to prepare for the clash with the All Blacks in Sydney.
“You can’t warm-up into that game (against the All Blacks),” Cheika told reporters on Thursday. “That’s maybe something we’ve been caught up with over the last couple of years.
“It’s definitely an opportunity for some players to show how much they want to play on the 18th.”
Cheika’s decision to organise Friday’s warmup match follows an example set by the All Blacks, who have played games against provincial opposition the week before the opening Rugby Championship clash for the past few years to iron out any rust.
The Wallabies, however, have typically been involved in training camps with the majority of their players not having played since the end of Super Rugby. Only one Australian side has made the playoffs in the last three seasons.
The Wallabies have then been annihilated by the All Blacks in the opening clashes of the southern hemisphere competition, which also double as the first matches in the annual Bledisloe Cup series.
The world champions raced out to a 32-3 lead by halftime in 2016 before they won the game 42-8 and then were leading 54-6 shortly after the break last year before they sealed a 54-34 win. Both games were in Sydney.
None of the players from the New South Wales Waratahs have been included for Friday’s match, with loose forward David Pocock leading the side in the absence of Michael Hooper.
The game will also be an opportunity for Cheika to look at candidates for the troublesome centre position.
Specialist centres Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani are both injured. Kerevi’s defensive woes were ruthlessly exploited by Ireland in June and Cheika has said the versatile Reece Hodge could possibly play there for the Wallabies.
“We’re going to see a few of the suspects on Friday. Hodge will get some time there,” Cheika said.
“We might even let Jordan Petaia have a bit of time there. You might even see one of the wingers have a go there.”
Hodge, who spent most of the season playing flyhalf for the Melbourne Rebels, was keen to play wherever he was selected.
“I have played a fair bit (at no.13),” Hodge told reporters as he trained in the position this week.
“I am comfortable playing pretty much 10 to 15 now. I have played it all. So now it is just up to me to prepare.” (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)