Injuries are the latest challenge for the winless Wallabies, with former captain James Slipper among those under a cloud ahead of the opening World Cup clash against Georgia.
One of just seven players in the 33-man Australian squad to have played at a World Cup, Slipper didn’t play in Australia’s last-start loss to France, a fifth defeat in a row under coach Eddie Jones in 2023, and is battling a tendon issue in his foot.
Jones said Slipper was “touch and go” to face Georgia in the World Cup opener next weekend, with hooker Jordan Uelese (knee) and prop Pone Fa’amausili (calf) also in some doubt.
Star centre Samu Kerevi, who injured his hand during Australia’s Bledisloe Cup loss to New Zealand in Dunedin last month, is back training and while Jones said he “should be right” for the Georgia match, he’s not locked in.
Despite the issues, Jones is adamant his team is “on track” for the clash with Georgia and is only looking to the first World Cup encounter, dismissing questions about whether his team can win the tournament.
“The only thing we have to worry about is Georgia in 10 days time,” he said.
“Are we on track for Georgia? Yes, we are on track for Georgia. Then after we deal with Georgia, we get on track for the next game. That‘’ all we have to worry about. Those things (about Australia reaching the final) are for you guys to worry about, not for us.”
Jones has constantly expressed belief his team, one of the youngest Australian groups ever to attend a World Cup, was growing into the team he hoped they could become.
He maintained that belief on the eve of the tournament and won’t be diverting from the plan.
“You go in with a perception of how you think the team may be and then the players’ talents have really shone through and we’re just discovering now how we need to operate as a team, how we want to play and how we can play to our strengths,” he said.
“So for us, it’s all just really starting now.
“We‘ve got a new leadership group led by Will (Skelton) and that’s changing the team as well. So for us, the big thing is finding the right way to play to our players’ strengths.
“The plan was always to free us up from structure. I don‘t believe you can copy other teams’ structure.”
The Wallabies are training in Saint-Etienne where they will remain until next Wednesday before heading to Paris for their tournament opener against Georgia, a game they have to win to get out of their pool that also features Fiji, Wales and Portugal.
Originally published as Several Wallabies under injury clouds ahead of World Cup opener