World Cup spots not up for grabs in USA

Wallabies coach Michael Chieka says only injury in Australia’s Test against the USA is likely to change his mind about the starting 15 for the opening World Cup clash with Fiji later this month.

Chieka has chosen to use Saturday’s Test at Soldier Field – the first against the USA on US soil since 1976 – as a chance to give certain players match fitness rather than a full-blown top team hit out.

While plenty of contention still surrounds which players will get the nod in England on September 23, particularly the halves, Chieka says World Cup preparations are right on track and the USA game does not represent a make or break scenario for any player.

Those who played the majority of the Rugby Championship are being rested with others getting an opportunity to leave an impression for later in the tournament.

As such Saturday’s starting halves pairing of Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley could still make way for Quade Cooper and Will Genia, who will play the USA from the bench.

“We have had a plan from a while back as to what we think we are going to be doing (against Fiji to open the World Cup campaign),” Chieka said.

“Anything could happen but we are pretty comfortable with the plan we’ve got and what that first team looks like and our reasons for playing certain players in this game.”

“Is there a player playing for his position? No.

“There is no guarantee that your plan is going to work but we definitely have one, contrary to popular opinion, and we are following it pretty much to the letter so far.”

While spots might not necessarily be on the line the Wallabies mentor stopped short of calling the game a training exercise.

He still expects the highest standards from the squad and won’t be satisfied with anything less.

“It is a Test match. It’s all about match decisions and getting experience in really making good decisions in matches because in tournament play at the World Cup that will be critical,” he said.

“This is the national team and when you play in the national jersey there are expectations on your performance.

“We have had a few really clear focus points on what we want to and what we have been improving as a constant throughout since we first came together on the spring tour of last year.

“I will be looking for those things on the field.

Captain Stephen Moore and vice-captains Michael Hooper and Adam Ashley-Cooper are among the rested players giving prop James Slipper his first opportunity to captain his country.

Ben McCalman has been named vice-captain in the number six jersey along with 95-Test veteran Matt Giteau who will start at inside centre.

Other players returning to the starting line-up include Joe Tomane, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Kurtley Beale, Kane Douglas and Sean McMahon who are each starting their first Test match of the 2015 international season.

Melbourne Rebels prop Toby Smith and NSW Waratahs winger Taqele Naiyaravoro, have been named on the bench to make Test debuts.

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