Will Genia admits he’s embarrassed to have earned a Rugby World Cup spot ahead of fallen halfback Nic White.
But now that he’s made Australia’s 31-man squad and restored to fitness after knee surgery, Genia is hoping to help lead the Wallabies to an unprecedented third World Cup in Britain.
Genia hasn’t played since limping off with a knee injury in Australia’s last-gasp Rugby Championship opening win over South Africa a month ago.
But Cheika kept the faith to pick the 59-Test veteran and one-time World Player of the Year nominee along with Nick Phipps in a touring party featuring just two specialist halfbacks.
White was overlooked despite starting in last Saturday’s 41-13 Bledisloe Cup loss to New Zealand in Auckland, a week after starring with 10 late points – including a try and monster penalty goal – in the Wallabies’ 27-19 victory over the All Blacks in Sydney.
Genia said he felt so gutted for White that he texted him moments after Friday’s squad announcement in Sydney.
“I said: ‘Look mate, I feel a bit embarrassed because I haven’t played much footy and you played really well with your match-winning cameo against the All Blacks off the bench,'” Genia said.
“I said to him: ‘I promise you I’ll do my best to make you proud.’ I think he appreciated it. He sent me a message back.”
Genia is gunning for a start against the USA on September 5 in Chicago in Australia’s last competitive outing before taking on Fiji in their World Cup opener in Cardiff on September 23.
“I’m ready to play now,” he said.
“I’m back to full fitness and I’m really looking forward to getting another opportunity to get out there and just play some rugby. It’s been a while.”
A proven big-game performer, Genia doesn’t believe he has anything to prove to justify his selection.
“I guess I’m fortunate enough that I’ve played for the Wallabies for a number of years now and in the last World Cup, so I don’t think there’s pressure in that sense,” he said
“The only pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself to perform. I don’t want to let my teammates down, let Australia down.
“I’ll work hard to make sure that when I go out there to play that I’ll be ready to play as hard as I can.”
When he got the call on Thursday night, it was Australia’s 1999 World Cup-winning halfback George Gregan who delivered the good news.
“It was pretty special,” Gregan said.
“He spoke to me for a good 15 minutes, just giving me some advice and tips about going over there but using the experience of 2011.
“He spoke a lot about backing yourself and I really appreciated the phone call.”