October 27, 2017 / 7:28 AM / a year ago

Tour squad places still up for grabs, says Wallabies coach

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia coach Michael Cheika has yet to finalise his squad for the northern hemisphere tour and could pluck two top performers from Saturday’s match against the Barbarians.

Rugby Union - Championship - Australia's Wallabies captain's run - Malvinas Argentinas stadium, Mendoza, Argentina - October 6, 2017 - Australia's head coach Michael Cheika speaks during the captain's run ahead of their match against Argentina. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Cheika will name a squad of up to 34 players over the weekend for the tour of Japan and Europe but is keen to watch the fringe players perform in the non-test match at Sydney Football Stadium.

“This weekend is going to be a big game for a lot of players, there’s still a couple of spots on the tour available,” Cheika told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

“There’s probably one backline position and one forward position still available on tour, so we’re looking to see how we go this weekend with players that probably haven’t had a chance to play.”

First-choice fullback Israel Folau has opted out of the tour and will play his last game of the season on the wing against the Barbarians before taking a break to freshen up for 2018.

Karmichael Hunt, named at fullback against the Barbarians, is expected to replace Folau in the position on tour.

Cheika has rested 13 of the starting 15 in the 23-18 win over the All Blacks last week, giving the lesser lights a chance to shine.

Among them, Melbourne Rebels hooker Jordan Uelese will be keen to perform, after impressing in his first two tests against South Africa and Argentina during the Rugby Championship last month.

Uncapped Billy Meakes, from the now defunct Western Force team, has been named at inside centre and will hope to become an understudy to Kurtley Beale.

The Wallabies play Japan in Yokohama on Nov. 4 before heading to Europe for tests against Wales, England and Scotland.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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