Luke Morahan passes a ball during a Wallabies training session.
Luke Morahan passes a ball during a Wallabies training session. DAN PELED

Wallabies stars rested as Cheika puts focus on Grand Slam

RUGBY UNION: The Wallabies will rest a host of their stars for Sunday morning's Test (6am AEST) against France, with a Grand Slam taking priority over an unbeaten Spring Tour.

Only four starting players from last week's heart-stopping win over Scotland have been named, with Michael Hooper, Stephen Moore, Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Sekope Kepu and Bernard Foley all to watch on from the sideline at Stade de France.

The Wallabies are attempting to secure their first Grand Slam in 32 years, and after winning their opening two games against Wales and Scotland, need to defeat Ireland and England over the coming fortnight to do so.

While coach Michael Cheika said the clash with France was "an important game”, with David Pocock to lead the side, it will not affect the Grand Slam outcome.

"There's some really good opportunities for some lads, we're never going to come on a five-Test match tour and play the same team every week,” Cheika said.

"It'll take its toll. This whole season, at a certain point we started making it about growing our depth and getting competition for places and making that stronger than it's been before.

"We're able to make those changes with the confidence that those players will perform on Saturday night.

"Obviously you've got to assess each game according to what happens in the game before and then try and work out what you're going to do.

"We had a plan coming into it, a perfect situation, and I think having the other lads in this week who have joined us from the British Barbarians has been really good.”

The changes will mean Kyle Godwin becomes Australia's 13th debutant this year, while his Western Force teammate Luke Morahan will earn just a second Test cap, four years after his first.

Hooker Tolu Latu and winger Sefa Naivalu get their first opportunities to start for the Wallabies, having debuted off the bench this year.

"It's been a big change-up, some new characters in the squad and we've enjoyed having them running in the team and getting to learn a bit about it,” Cheika said.

"One of them (Luke Morahan) is getting a start this week, which he'll be happy about, and maybe another one (Taqele Naiyaravoro) on the bench to finish.”

Cheika said the break was just as much about the mental state of players as the physical one.

"I think physically, it's not huge, we gave some guys who have had big loads some time off during the week,” Cheika said.

"Maybe mentally, that helps. Just that ability to choose - like you don't have to come to training if you don't want. A bit of freedom in the middle of game on game on game on game.

"I actually think that physically we're just starting to find our fitness level for the season.

"And that's going to be important because there's going to be plenty of action on Saturday.”

Cheika said he wasn't underestimating the French, who are missing star playmaker Francois Trinh-Duc.

"We understand exactly the threats that they bring and at home at a full Stade De France,” he said.

"They'll always be a step above, they'll always play out of their skin.

"So, we're going to have to present them ourselves with some challenges on both sides of the ball, on the attack and defence, to make sure it's a real contest.”

Wallabies: 15 Luke Morahan 14 Sefanaia Naivalu 13 Tevita Kuridrani 12 Kyle Godwin 11 Henry Speight 10 Quade Cooper 9 Will Genia 8 Sean McMahon 7 David Pocock (captain) 6 Scott Fardy 5 Rob Simmons 4 Kane Douglas 3 Allan Alaalatoa 2 Tolu Latu 1 James Slipper. Reserves: Stephen Moore, Scott Sio, Tom Robertson, Will Skelton, Dean Mumm, Lopeti Timani, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Taqele Naiyaravoro (one to be omitted)


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