IRB Rugby World Cup
RWC One month to go - Lineout a worry for Australia
Sam Bruce
August 18, 2015
Adam Ashley-Cooper celebrates his try
Adam Ashley-Cooper celebrates his try© Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Main issues

While the scrum appeared to be the Wallabies' biggest issue at the 100-day out mark, problem areas have popped up elsewhere: at lineout time and in the halves. Scott Sio's ascension to the starting side has steadied the eight-man shove but a lack of clarity around the second- and back-row combinations saw Australia lose three lineouts in both their most recent Tests with the All Blacks.

Looking at what they achieved in their victory in Sydney, the combination of David Pocock and Michael Hooper appears to have plenty of merit but just how Cheika negotiates the problem that creates at lineout time remains to be seen. The make-up of his best 9-10-12 combination is also largely unknown with no player from those positions effectively demanding selection with a standout performance in The Rugby Championship.

Squad strength

While Cheika has some significant problems to address in a couple of key areas, he at least has different options to consider in rectifying those same evils. The return of Kane Douglas - albeit with a degree of cloak and dagger about it - has afforded Cheika another option at the troublesome position of lock; as has Dean Mumm's surprise recall. Injured Brumbies lock Sam Carter also remains in contention despite not playing since the closing rounds of Super Rugby.

And while none of the inside backs delivered the type of game-turning performance Wallabies fans were hoping for, there is optimism that a successful trio from the likes of Nic White, Nick Phipps and Will Genia (scrum-halves), Bernard Foley, Quade Cooper (fly-halves), and Matt Toomua, Matt Giteau and Kurtley Beale will announce itself. The big question will be whether Cheika opts for two or three specialist No.9s or goes with Giteau as scrum-half cover and affords himself an extra midfield place.

Injury concerns

The uncertainty around the availability of Sam Carter and Will Genia and the return of chief lineout caller Rob Simmons appear to be the Wallabies' only significant injury concerns. Both Carter and Genia are on the comeback trail from surgery with Carter believed to be in with a chance to start in NSW Country's opening National Rugby Championship game on Saturday.

That comes a day after Cheika's squad announcement on August 21, while both Genia and Simmons have the one-off Test with the United States on September 5 highlighted on their calendars. Simmons appears certain to be included but Cheika faces a major dilemma in respect to both Carter and Genia; does he make his selection on their history at Test level or will a lack of recent playing time see them left at home?

What the locals are saying

"The Bledisloe Cup remains absent for at least another year, and all the dreams, hopes and optimism, blind or otherwise, are now aimed at the World Cup. The trouble is the Wallabies face the same dilemma after Saturday night's thumping at Eden Park as they did after their win at ANZ Stadium a week earlier. Which halves duo is going to stand up when it counts, in the games that matter most?

"Australia won the William Webb Ellis Trophy in 1991 with Nick Farr-Jones and Michael Lynagh, and in '99 with George Gregan and Stephen Larkham. What combination of Nic White, Nick Phipps, Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Quade Cooper, Matt Toomua, Matt Giteau or even Kurtley Beale might come anywhere near replicating those pairings?" Former Wallabies captain Andrew Slack - The Courier Mail.

© Sam Bruce

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