The Wallabies are itching to get their Rugby World Cup campaign under way, with opposed training sessions heating up and players desperately looking for someone new to tackle.
Sick of hitting their teammates day after day, the Wallabies want to take some pain out on their Pool A rivals – starting with Fiji in their tournament opener on Wednesday (Thursday morning AEST) in Cardiff.
In coach Michael Cheika’s famously full-on sessions, the Australian squad has been given permission to not hold back – resulting in some fairly testing moments from players who are champing at the bit for the real contests to start.
“But no punches have been thrown, if that’s what you’re after,” laughs giant prop James Slipper.
“It’s been physical, I’ll say that.
“Spots are up for grabs. Everyone is trying to put their hand up.
“Everyone genuinely wants to do their best for the country.”
Cheika has laid out his plan to deploy different starting line-ups for Australia’s opening two clashes, with the second fixture – against Uruguay in Birmingham on Sunday – coming on a short turnaround from their Fijian opener.
It is expected Cheika will field a full-strength line-up against Fiji, with the Uruguay clash likely to boast a second-string team, resting the Australian big guns for all-important fixtures against England and Wales to round out the pool stage.
Team vice-captain Michael Hooper says players aren’t concerned about which match they take part in – they just want to get stuck into a few new faces.
The Wallabies have already endured a gruelling pre-tournament campaign which started in Australia and took them to camps in the USA before settling in Bath since the start of this week.
“A cap is a cap. If you can get on the field, you just want to play,” he said.
“I didn’t play in the US game so I just can’t wait to get on the field personally.
“We’ve just been training against each other for what seems like so long now that we just want to play – you want to tackle someone else.”
That view was supported by Slipper, who said the likes of bolter Sean McMahon had made training sessions some of the toughest he’d encountered.
The tearaway 21-year-old has made life difficult for teammates and has been pushing hard to demand selection, despite falling behind world-class flankers David Pocock and Hooper in the pecking order for the No.7 jersey.
“You could tell a few of the boys were getting quite physical with each other,” Slipper said.
“There’s been a lot of training and it’s been physical and hard and it’s been good.
“(McMahon) is one bloke you can easily say will put his hand up through training and his performances in the games, that he deserves his spot in the squad.
“He’s one bloke you don’t want to cross paths with in training because he goes that hard – he doesn’t really care.
“He’s young, he’s fit, he’s got no injuries – it kills me looking at him.”
McMahon is certain to get significant game time in one of the two fixtures, as Cheika closes in on his strongest match-day squad.