Veteran halfback Will Genia boosted his Rugby World Cup stocks as the Wallabies overcame a shoddy first half to defeat the United States 47-10 in their warm up Test at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Genia had played only the first 40 minutes of Australia’s 2015 campaign before succumbing to a knee injury and surgery.
But the 2011 World Cup starter showed his readiness by adding zip around the rucks when he came from the bench, replacing Nick Phipps, and helped spark the second half turnaround that yielded five tries.
Coach Michael Cheika stated previously he already had a clear idea of his best team for the World Cup and spots weren’t on the line against the gutsy US Eagles ahead of the Cup opener against Fiji in Cardiff on September 23.
But Genia, Kurtley Beale and raw-boned young loose forward Sean McMahon certainly did no their chances some good.
The Chicago match attracted a crowd of 23,212 – a far cry from the capacity 61,500 who filled the ground to watch the All Blacks crush the US 74-6 last year.
The home fans enjoyed high hopes of a pre-World Cup boilover when the Eagles trailed by just 14-10 at halftime against a largely second-string Australian outfit that struggled to find rhythm.
Cheika admitted there was “the odd loud word” spoken at halftime and the Wallabies played noticeably more direct in the second spell as the visitors stormed clear before ramming home their superiority late.
Foley scored a try and kicked six from seven with the boot for a 17-point haul.
Genia believed his recent knee clean out surgery may have been a blessing in disguise.
“It felt really good,” Genia said.
“I think the surgery on my knee fixed up a lot of niggling issues that have been hanging around for a while.
“I just went out to do my job. It was about getting in there and looking to move the ball as quickly as I can.”
Cheika admitted the side lost its way in the opening half after getting to a quick 14-0 advantage, as loose passes and penalties allowed the Eagles back into the contest.
“We had a specific way we wanted to play this game, a few things we wanted to do, and I think off the back of a big training week in the heat, it got in our heads a little bit,” he said.
“We started to make a few skew-whiff decisions but we sorted out our decision making and got back into the swing of it.”
When asked about the two halfbacks, Cheika admitted Genia had the better of it.
“I think both of them did well but I think Nick played behind a pack who didn’t deliver as good a ball in the first half, we had a lot of rucks where we struggled,” Cheika said.
“In the second half our forwards and all our players worked on the ruck…and we were able to get better ball to Genia so he profited from that.”
McMahon, Dean Mumm, Beale, Quade Cooper and Taqele Naiyaravoro also bagged tries for the Wallabies with Beale and McMahon producing eye-catching displays.
Beale all but locked up a bench utility place in the side with quality work at both fullback and inside centre while 21-year-old McMahon was a terrier in the backrow and may have secured an unlikely bench spot going forward such was his intensity.
“He played well. He’s still very fresh but his energy is outstanding. It is infectious to the other players,” Cheika said of the youngster.
“That energy he brings to the team and that raw edge is the reason he got selected.”