Former captain James Horwill looks the likely beneficiary of an injury to Wallabies lineout general Rob Simmons, but his list of rivals for a World Cup lock spot is growing.
Simmons will miss both Saturday’s Rugby Championship decider against New Zealand in Sydney and next week’s Bledisloe Cup return match in Auckland to undergo wrist surgery.
The 52-Test veteran, who is Australia’s lineout caller, 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.
With Simmons sidelined, Cheika opted to have Kane Douglas training with the squad on Monday, soon after his release from Irish side Leinster.
Cheika said Douglas would need at least a week or two of contact work to be in contention for selection and indicated Simmons’ replacement at ANZ Stadium on Saturday would be either Horwill or fellow veteran Dean Mumm, who both came off the bench in one of Australia’s first two Tests of the season.
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.
Horwill, who will join English club Harlequins after the World Cup, captained Australia at the 2011 tournament, but has only been a starter in three of his past 11 Test appearances.
Despite battling for Super Rugby form and being more of a peripheral Test player in recent times, Horwill was never concerned he would drop out of selection contention.
“I’ve always been very confident in my own ability and my self belief and what I can do,” Horwill said on Monday.
“The most important thing with Test rugby is that those opportunities do come around occasionally you’ve got to be ready to go and I’m very confident I can do that.”
Cheika said while it was disappointing for Simmons to miss the All Blacks Tests it presented a great chance for someone else.
“I’m not saying that to try to be Mr Positive,” Cheika said.
“Someone is going to get a lucky call and it’s an opportunity for that guy to make the most of it.”
Another positive was the opportunity to bring 14-Test lock Douglas back into the fold.
“The fact that a player has missed out on coming into camp this week has given him a chance to get a foothold and start practising with the other lads and getting involved in the tight play and the set piece,” Cheika said.
“It’s almost like it’s opening up for him to have a chance to get experience within the team.”
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.