They’re a step behind, but the Australian second XV will have a chance to force coach Michael Cheika’s hand when they take the spotlight against Uruguay on Sunday.
Cheika rolled out his first-choice lineup for the Wallabies’ World Cup opener against Fiji, and adopted a two-team strategy to combat the short, four-day turn-around before their second fixture against Uruguay in Birmingham.
And while assistant coach Stephen Larkham admits the starting XV against Fiji have their foot in the door for selection in the bigger pool games against England and Wales to follow, he insists nothing is set in stone.
That’s music to the ears of Matt Toomua and Sean McMahon, both of whom will be in the starting lineup when Australia take the field at Villa Park on Sunday.
“You’re getting another chance in the Australian jersey and in a World Cup, so it doesn’t matter who you’re playing or if it’s off the bench,” said the versatile Toomua, who is pushing veteran Matt Giteau for a starting berth at No.12.
“You understand that there are quite a few guys with an early lead, but it is a very competitive nature.
“Training has been very competitive and I know they’re watching that as well.
“Plus, you never know what can happen throughout a tournament – all sorts of things can happen.
“When you get a chance to perform, you want the coach to have fond memories of you playing in that jersey.”
The improved performances of the minnow nations across the early stages of the World Cup, including Japan’s shock upset of South Africa, ensures every team is being taken seriously.
Australia will start unbackable favourites against world No.19-ranked Uruguay, and are in many ways on a hiding to nothing – a comfortable victory will simply highlight the mismatch, while anything less could be viewed as a failure by Cheika’s men.
However, McMahon takes umbrage at such a suggestion – insisting the Wallabies will prepare with the same intensity as if they were facing England or New Zealand.
“I don’t think there’s any such thing as a tier one or tier two or tier three team any more,” he said.
“Everyone is on the same level. You never know what a team is going to come out and put on the field.
“From a team’s perspective, we’ll be going out there thinking we’re playing a game against England.”
Potential Wallabies starting XV against Uruguay: Kurtley Beale, Drew Mitchell, Henry Speight, Matt Toomua, Joe Tomane, Quade Cooper, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Sean McMahon, Ben McCalman, Dean Mumm, Will Skelton, Greg Holmes, Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper (capt).