Former captain James Horwill looks set for a “lucky call” after Wallabies lineout general Rob Simmons was ruled out of Saturday’s Rugby Championship decider against New Zealand in Sydney.
Simmons is to undergo wrist surgery for a scaphoid injury and will also miss next week’s Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland but he is expected to be back when the Wallabies take on the USA in Chicago in the lead up to the World Cup starting next month.
Simmons, a veteran of 52 Tests, has been Australia’s lineout caller and leading jumper and Cheika has a tough task to replace him as a starting lock against the world champion All Blacks.
He has the choice of veterans Horwill and Dean Mumm, and he could also demote non-jumping giant lock Will Skelton to start both of them.
After struggling for form this year, Horwill impressed when he came off the bench in last month’s Test win over South Africa in Brisbane.
Recently returned from an overseas stint, Mumm was just as impressive off the bench in the victory against Argentina in Mendoza a week ago.
Horwill appears to be the frontrunner after training alongside the majority of starters from last week’s Argentina Test on Monday and also being put up for a media interview.
“I know it’s disappointing for Rob (Simmons) and he really wanted to play but I just think it is a great chance for someone else,” Cheika said.
“I am not saying that to try to be Mr Positive. I just think if you get the opportunity to play for Australia in a Test match here against New Zealand, someone is going to get a lucky call and it’s an opportunity for that guy to make the most of it.”
Cheika said inside back Matt Toomua and prop James Slipper, who suffered head knocks against Argentina, would be available to play if they came through their contact session on Tuesday without any dramas.
Veteran utility Matt Giteau was also in the mix for selection after missing the Argentina Test.