Cheika's huge selection dilemma ahead of World Cup
A LION-hearted performance from retiring Wallaby warhorse David Pocock has given the Wallabies just the boost they need as they head to Japan to try and win the World Cup for the first time in two decades.
Showing no signs of rust or fatigue in his first Test this year, Pocock provided Australia's eternally hopeful rugby fans with some renewed cause for optimism as the Wallabies banished the memories of their recent thumping by New Zealand with a 34-15 demolition job over Samoa.
The cash-strapped Pacific Islanders aren't in the same league as the All Blacks but still hit hard and while it was far from perfect, the Wallabies showed that the attacking blueprint they have for the World is still their best chance of success as they piled on six tries with a largely second string team given a licence to chance their arm.Stream the
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"It was a tough one, we took some really big hits, but it was also really enjoyable," Pocock said. "Plenty to work on, it was stop start at times, they put us under pressure.
"The team is feeling good, we have been together (in camp) and building momentum.
"I think we showed some good stuff tonight we've not got a good chunk of time in Japan to prepare."
The biggest question facing the Australian selectors before the first World Cup match against Fiji is whether to play Pocock and Michael Hooper together or use them separately but the odds of them both starting will have shortened after Pocock's great comeback.
As busy as ever in the breakdown and at the tackle, Pocock threw the final pass for Adam Coleman's first try of the match and was going as strong as ever when Michael Cheika pulled him just before the hour.
The 'Pooper' combination may not be the only dilemma the selectors face about the best makeup for the backrow after Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Jack Dempsey both had strong games.
Salakaia-Loto could be the unlucky one who has to make way if Pocock joins Hooper in a reshuffled backrow but he scored a try and got through a mountain of work while Dempsey was also impressive at the breakdown.
While Cheika opted to rest most of his first-choice players who are expected to start against Fiji, the one exception was Marika Koroibete and the speedster showed why he's going to be a key player for Australia at the World Cup.
Marika Koroibete cuts apart Samoa for the Wallabies second.— FOX SPORTS Rugby (@FOXRUGBY) September 7, 2019
📺Watch it live on Fox Sports 503 NOW! pic.twitter.com/9DlkSg2R0E
While his greatest asset is his electrifying pace, the former rugby league international reminded everyone about his power and strength when he barrelled his way through three defenders to score.
He looked dangerous every time he got his hands on the ball and was a popular choice as man of the match.
Just the second Wallaby to be selected for four World Cups, veteran utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper vindicated the faith the selectors have placed in him with a first-half try that was significant for lots of reasons.
It was his first try since his hat-trick against Argentina in the 2015 World Cup semis and took his career tally to 38, lifting him to third place on Australia's lost behind David Campese and Chris Latham.
Two of the players he moved ahead of were Jonah Lomu and Israel Folau, whose absence from the Wallaby team becomes less and less noticeable with each match.
Bernard Foley didn't do his chances of winning back his starting spot after a rare off night with the boot.
The Iceman, whose faultless kicking was one of the key factors to Australia reaching the last World Cup, has been displaced as the starting five-eighth by Christian Lealiifano but could only land two of his conversion attempts last night, though almost all of them were wide out.
AUSTRALIA 34 (Adam Ashley-Cooper, Adam Coleman, Dane Haylett-Petty, Marika Koroibete, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Matt To'omua tries Bernard Foley 2 cons) bt SAMOA 15 (Dwayne Polataivao 2 tries Tusi Pisi con pen) at Bankwest Stadium. Referee: Paul Williams