Cheika keeping cards close to chest

With Wallabies coach Michael Chieka preparing to swing the selection axe, his players remain in the dark as to who among them faces the chopping block.

Cheika will cull a quarter of his 40-man squad on Friday ahead of next week’s opening Rugby Championship clash against South Africa at Suncorp Stadium.

But with the Wallabies still shuffling through as many combinations as possible at their Sunshine Coast training base, No.8 Ben McCalman says it is still too early to tell who will go or what the team facing the Springboks might look like.

“It’s very unclear what the final make-up will be,” McCalman told reporters on Thursday.

“I’m sure Cheik and the coaches have some ideas but it’s just (about) competing hard at the moment.

“They’re certainly giving nothing away but I guess the positive is there’s a lot of depth in Australian rugby at the moment in certain positions.”

It is difficult to glean much insight from Cheika’s 15-on-15 opposed sessions given how rapidly players have swapped positions.

But he may be close to at least settling on parts of his backline, with former Queensland teammates Quade Cooper and Will Genia spending plenty of time together alongside centres Matt Giteau and Tevita Kuridrani.

McCalman is likely to find himself on the right side of Friday’s cut with his main rival Wycliff Palu restricted to light duties, opening up the possibility of a start against South Africa for the Western Force hardman.

Also wrapped in cotton wool are Waratahs pair Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale, who have been afforded an extended rest after the Super Rugby finals.

Winger Rob Horne is in the thick of a seven-way battle for a wide spot and said there had been tangible benefits to being kept on tenterhooks.

“It’s hugely contested, like every position,” he said.

“But what better way do you want?

“We’ve got guys that are all Test quality and someone’s going to miss out.

“We’re going to make each other better and that’s the way it is.

“We’re going to need everyone. Rugby’s a sport where it’s opportunity-based and guys fall over and that’s just the nature of it.”

The Wallabies are expected to announce which 10 players have been trimmed from the squad on Friday afternoon, before moving to Brisbane to finalise their preparations for the Test.

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