Australia’s Israel Folau passes fitness test to be cleared for Wales meeting

• Full-back named in Michael Cheika’s starting XV after ankle trouble
• Will Genia expecting another close game in Pool A game at Twickenham

For their final pool match against Wales, Australia have made three changes to the starting XV that thrashed England. Two have been forced on the coach, Michael Cheika, with Drew Mitchell coming in for the injured Rob Horne on the wing and Sean McMahon replacing the suspended Michael Hooper at openside flanker. Dean Mumm has also replaced Rob Simmons at lock.

Cheika delayed naming the team until Thursday afternoon after the full-back Israel Folau passed a late fitness test for an injury to his ankle. Cheika has also bumped David Pocock up to vice-captain, a job he will share with Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Like Matt Giteau, Mitchell, who has scored 32 tries in 66 Tests, was recalled to the squad after the ARU relaxed its rules on overseas players. McMahon, on the other hand, is at the beginning of his career. He is 21 and has played in only five Tests. He won a host of awards for his play in recent seasons, including the Rookie of the Year for both the Wallabies and for the Australian Super Rugby franchises. He has been picked for this match instead of the more experienced Ben McCalman.

The selection is a show of faith from Cheika, who correctly guessed that Wales would likely start with two opensides in their own back row, with Sam Warburton moving over to No6 to make room for Justin Tipuric.

Australia have won their last 10 matches against Wales, a streak that stretches back to a three-point defeat at the Millennium Stadium in 2008. Even so, in the last five of those games, there’s never been more than five points in it.

“It’s another huge Test match,” said the scrum-half Will Genia. “Every game we’ve played against Wales in previous years, the last 10 meetings, have been really close, we know how big a challenge it is.” With that in mind, Genia says that the squad have “spoken a lot about how the game’s not won by 15, it’s won by 23. Everyone’s role in the squad is massive”.

Cheika agreed: “It is going to be pretty painful. It is going to be a tough game. I think the finish in this game is going to be really important. I think the fourth game of the pool, it will go right down to the wire this game, I really do. I want to make sure our finishers are really well prepared for the final parts of the game.”

The coach expects it to be a harder match than the England game, not just because of the opposition but also the circumstances. “Wales are a team that back themselves a lot,” Cheika explained. “They play the game right out all the time. I also think where we are at this stage in the tournament and even though we are playing at Twickenham, I feel like I have been ambushed before by opposition supporters going to a different ground.

“I know there will be plenty of Welsh supporters there. They will make it their own home ground. We will have to be really strong and consistently strong in the way we play the game over 80 minutes.”

He insisted that he was not worried about finishing top of the group – he just wants “to try to win every game individually. No team has ever won a World Cup losing a game.”

Australia team to face Wales

Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Dean Mumm, Scott Fardy, Sean McMahon, David Pocock. Replacements Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Greg Holmes, Rob Simmons, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale.


Andy Bull

The GuardianTramp

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