By Nick Mulvenney
TOKYO (Reuters) – Wallabies coach Michael Cheika named his third starting flyhalf of the World Cup on Tuesday, putting Matt To’omua in the number 10 shirt for Australia’s final Pool D match against Georgia.
To’omua, who came off the bench for Bernard Foley to spark Australia’s ultimately fruitless comeback in their loss to Wales, replaces Christian Lealiifano.
Lealiifano, who started in the wins over Fiji and Uruguay, was named as a replacement, with Foley, the incumbent for much of the last five years, missing out altogether for the third time this tournament.
Skipper Michael Hooper was rested with David Pocock replacing him as captain and at openside flanker in a new-look back row with Jack Dempsey on the blindside and Isi Naisarani at number eight.
A win in Shizuoka would guarantee the twice world champions a place in the quarter-finals, probably against England, but Cheika said getting through to the knockout stage was the sole focus of the team selection this week.
“I know some teams want to go with the same players all the time,” he said of his tinkering with the side.
“We feel that keeping players competing for spots is working for us, we’re playing some good footy. We’re very conscious of the opposition, they’re a much improved opposition.
“We’re trying to get a balance of opportunity, workload and also being ready to win the games. That is the number one priority after all.”
Kurtley Beale remains at fullback with teenager Jordan Petaia, who scored a try on his test debut against Uruguay, swapping wings and Marika Koroibete coming back into the side.
Samu Kerevi also returns in the centres with James O’Connor, who has recovered from the corked leg that prevented him from playing against Uruguay.
Kerevi was penalised for leading with his forearm into a tackle in the Wales match but said he would not be altering his running style.
Winger Reece Hodge is serving the last match of his three-game ban for a high tackle in Australia’s opening victory over Fiji
Cheika said addressing the number of penalties Australia were incurring in the tackle was a major priority this week.
“We’re addressing that, we’ve got some ideas about how we are going to get better,” he said.
“Whether it’s truth or perception, we’re getting the arm raised against us and losing players to the bin for things we shouldn’t be.
“We’ve just got to lift our standards there, it’s as simple as that.”
Australia: 15-Kurtley Beale, 14-Jordan Petaia, 13-James O’Connor, 12-Samu Kerevi, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Matt To’omua, 9-Nic White, 8-Isi Naisarani, 7-David Pocock (captain), 6-Jack Dempsey, 5-Rory Arnold, 4-Izack Rodda, 3-Sekope Kepu, 2-Tolu Latu, 1-Scott Sio
Replacements: 16-Jordan Uelese, 17-James Slipper, 18-Taniela Tupou, 19-Adam Coleman, 20-Michael Hooper, 21-Will Genia, 22-Christian Lealiifano, 23-Dane Haylett-Petty.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)