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AWJ reaches record caps haul as Cheika changes his playmakers

The brilliant second row eclipses Gethin Jenkins record as he prepares to run out for a 130th international appearance.

AUSTRALIA COACH MICHAEL Cheika brought in half-backs Will Genia and Bernard Foley and dropped Kurtley Beale to the bench as he made four changes for Sunday’s  Rugby World Cup clash with Wales.

rugby-sep-07-australia-v-samoa Genia in action against Fiji. Source: Speed Media

Dane Haylett-Petty starts in place of Beale at fullback and there was no room in the matchday 23 for Christian Lealiifano, Australia’s starting fly-half in the 39-21 win over Fiji.

Adam Ashley-Cooper comes in on the right wing to replace Reece Hodge, who was banned for three games for a high tackle, for what will be the 35-year-old’s 120th Test.

James O’Connor, recently reintroduced to the side after a long absence with disciplinary problems, retains his spot in midfield alongside Samu Kerevi on what will be the former Sale back’s 50th cap.

The Wallabies pack is unchanged with David Pocock again partnering captain Michael Hooper for what appears to be a Pool D decider in Tokyo.

Australia were troubled by a physical Fiji in their opening game last weekend but they got a better grip on the game when Genia was introduced in the second half.

The Wallabies have a strong record against Wales although they were on the losing end last time they met, when a 6-9 reverse last November ended a decade-long winning streak.

Cheika said he was was confident Foley could produce the goods at fly-half.

“I obviously believe in him a lot, I’ve got a lot of history with him, and I think that he’s trying to fight against the challenge that Christian (Lealiifano) has brought to him, and Matty Toomua as well,” he said.

“That’s great for the team that he realises ‘Okay I’ve got to lift my standard, this guy’s playing good footy and I’m getting my chance here’.

“At the World Cup you’re not given anything, you’ve got to take everything. Here’s an opportunity, go and take it. I’m sure he’s in that mindset as well.”

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Cheika said he felt this was a “good combination” for this game and pointed to the strength on the bench, with the likes of Nic White, Kurtley Beale and James Slipper available as impact players.

The Australia coach, who said he would keep telling his players to tackle “low and middle”, could not resist having another dig at World Rugby over Hodge’s three-game ban, saying the winger had not yet decided whether to appeal.

“There is a bit of us versus everyone else,” Cheika said. “So we are not going to let it derail us. We’ll just suck it up and get focused on what’s important, and that is the match on Sunday.

“We wanted no obstacles to derail us and we are not going to let them get to us. We’ll just concentrate on our footy and do the best we can on Sunday for Australia.”

wales-v-georgia-pool-d-2019-rugby-world-cup-city-of-toyota-stadium Jones is the driving force in a powerful Welsh pack. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Meanwhile, Alun Wyn Jones will become Wales’ most-capped player when he wins his 130th cap by leading out an unchanged side from the one that dispatched Georgia.

“It’s nice for myself and my family,” the 34-year-old Jones said of the record previously held by Gethin Jenkins.

“But there’s a bigger picture which is the game. No one’s going to be worried by numbers on the stat sheets during the game — that’s my focus and how I’ll continue.”

Australia: Dane Haylett-Petty; Adam Ashley-Cooper, James O’Connor, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa; Izack Rodda, Rory Arnold, David Pocock, Michael Hooper (Capt), Isi Naisarani, 

Replacements: Jordan Uelese, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Adam Coleman, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Nic White, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale

Wales: Liam Williams; George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies: Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis; Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (Capt); Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Aaron Shingler, Ross Moriarty, Tomos Williams, Rhys Patchell, Owen Watkin.

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