The Wallabies have allayed fears star duo David Pocock and Israel Folau will be underdone going into Sunday’s World Cup semi-final against Argentina.
The pair completed the bulk of the team’s captain’s run on Saturday (Sunday AEDT) to confirm their place in coach Michael Cheika’s lineup for their date with Argentina at Twickenham on Sunday (Monday 0300 AEDT).
They also took part in training on Friday, before the team naming, which convinced Cheika picking them wouldn’t be a gamble.
There had been particular concern over brilliant back-rower Pocock and his injured calf – with former captain Stirling Mortlock noting the strain which will be put on the muscle at scrum time against the mighty Pumas pack.
But the coach rebuffed theories that they’d been rushed back to steady the Wallabies after a sloppy, fortuitous 35-34 quarter-final win over Scotland last weekend which both missed through injury.
His risk assessment on key prop Scott Sio – who has a painful elbow injury – resulted in him taking the cautious option, with the experienced James Slipper reclaiming the No.1 jersey he held for the best part of the past two years.
“We always knew that (Pocock’s) injury would be around the seven-day, eight-day mark for return to play,” Cheika said on Saturday.
“He got through a good deal of training (on Friday), more than we thought.
“Every day you’re going to get improvements.
“He’s very strong mentally, that lad, so it would have been very difficult to stop him even if he wasn’t fit.
“We feel more than comfortable with the fact he’s fit enough to do his job and do it very well.”
By his own lofty standards Folau has had a quiet World Cup, failing to score a try during the pool stages and struggling with injury.
The Scotland clash was the first time in Folau’s rugby union career that he’d missed a Test match through injury – though he had played through the pain to help close out a courageous win over Wales a fortnight ago having aggravated his ankle injury.
His big game experience – having played in grand finals, State of Origin and the international stage in rugby league – will certainly be valuable against Argentina.
“I would guess that a player of his calibre is only going to enjoy these matches and do really well in these finals matches,” Cheika said.
“I think he’s just been wanting to play footy, I think the frustrating part was not being able to play last week.”
Australia are firm favourites to outlast the world No.4 Argentina, who they have beaten ten times from 11 clashes in the past 15 years.
But Cheika said his team was relaxed – and focused – rather than feeling the pressure.
“It’s up to us to make the pressure during the game,” he said.
“It’s all about confronting the opponent on Sunday over 80 minutes.
“You don’t want to be stressed about that, you want to enjoy it.”