Michael Cheika says the Wallabies are ready for Bodyline – whatever that means.
If it means illegal tactics, good luck to England.
But if it means an aggressive, physical, uncompromising series opener on Saturday night, as Cheika suspects it does, he believes Australia has struck the right formula to raze Eddie Jones and the Red Rose in front of an expected sold-out crowd at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
“I’ve said before, if it means aggressive footy, that’s good, the game’s meant to be aggressive,” Cheika told reporters on Thursday after naming a new-look Wallabies team, featuring four uncapped players.
“I imagine that’s what it means, because you’re not going to come out and do head-high tackles, are you?
“It’s a contact sport and we love that, and respect to our opponents if they bring it on.
“We’re up for it. Good stuff. Let’s go.”
Lock Rory Arnold, centre Samu Kerevi and winger Dane Haylett-Petty will all make starting debuts while halfback Nick Frisby has been named on the bench.
Arnold and Kerevi give the World Cup runners-up an immediate make-over.
Brumbies giant Arnold will become the tallest man to play for Australia at 208cm when he lines up alongside 60-Test veteran Rob Simmons in the second row.
Kerevi, after starring in a poor Queensland Reds team this season, has won the race for the No.12 jersey and will team up with Tevita Kuridrani to form one of the biggest centre pairings the Wallabies have ever fielded.
“I think we’ve got a lot of players who can make a break out there. That’s what we’re looking to do, make breaks,” Cheika said.
The rest of the side is largely familiar, with Israel Folau at fullback – not in the centres, where he has starred for the NSW Waratahs – and Greg Holmes edging out Sekope Kepu to join skipper Stephen Moore and Scott Sio in the front row.
Cheika has retained the speedy, ball-pilfering back-row combination of David Pocock, Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy that worked so well last year with the versatile Sean McMahon as the reserve.
But there is intrigue on the bench, and in the absentees from the match-day 23.
Dean Mumm’s experience and flexibility sees him beat Will Skelton to join James Horwill as the back-up locks, while Christian Lealiifano is the safe choice as utility back, despite only joining his teammates in camp on Wednesday.
Lealiifano was waiting by his wife’s side in Canberra for the overdue birth of the couple’s first child, Jeremih, who arrived safely on Tuesday.
“It would have been killing him to leave, but he sees how much his teammates appreciate him coming up here and making that sacrifice to be here,” Cheika said.
“He’ll be playing with everything he’s got for his wife and his little one to make them proud for the sacrifice he made for not being there.”
But there is no Karmichael Hunt, who has struggled to overcome a groin strain and may depart Camp Wallaby for further treatment.
Wallabies team: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Samu Kerevi, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Rory Arnold, Greg Holmes, Stephen Moore (capt), Scott Sio. Res: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, James Horwill, Dean Mumm, Sean McMahon, Nick Frisby, Christian Leali’ifano.