Time’s ticking for Wallaby World Cup hopefuls
TOWERING lock Adam Coleman has been pencilled in for a World Cup starting spot for three years yet he has as much to prove as anyone against the All Blacks in Perth.
The Wallabies are in rare shape with so few injuries and there are two players with legitimate claims on every spot in the pack less than seven weeks from the Cup kick-off in Japan.
That still doesn't equate to the Wallabies piecing together the perfect blend to topple the men in black on Saturday night but it's a sound start.
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Coleman has played just three games in 14 weeks because of injuries but has finally repaired a fractured scapula and calf niggle to be ready for Bledisloe I.
His return should wisely be from the bench which gives Izack Rodda and Rory Arnold a further chance to build on their combination as starting locks.
Much was made of the Wallabies' scrummaging dominance in their last-start win yet Arnold and Rodda both picked off key lineout steals to disrupt Argentina's momentum as well.
Both moments were as good as a David Pocock pilfer and such set piece quality must rise again to compete with an All Blacks pack even minus top lock Brodie Retallick (shoulder).
Coleman has started 29 of his 31 Tests under Michael Cheika because his abrasive style, tackling venom, size and attitude so perfectly suit the coach's idea of an influential lock.
Coleman still knows that only performance will get him back to pole position as a starter at the World Cup.
"There's so much competition within the squad now, not only with the locks but throughout various positions," Coleman said.
"It's getting to that crunch time where selections are going to have to be very tough for Cheik and that's a good thing for Australian rugby.
"Izack and Rory and 'Simmo' (Rob Simmons), off the bench, are playing really well so I'm really excited to be back competing.
"Seeing the boys perform (in the 16-10 win over Argentina) gave me that itch to get back into the squad and fight for a gold jersey again."
Just making it to the World Cup intact is a feat because 76-Test Welsh weapon Toby Faletau (collarbone) is out and Retallick may miss the opening games.
Cheika has used 29 players across the opening two Tests of the year and he's still to put minutes into frontline forwards Coleman, prop Allan Alaalatoa and Tatafu Polota-Nau.
And that's not counting flanker David Pocock, who is no chance to return on Saturday but could test his calf against Samoa in Sydney on September 7.
Against the All Blacks, it makes sense to keep pouring time into the Isi Naisarani-Michael Hooper-Lukhan Salakaia-Loto backrow so they keep building their formative partnership.
No.8 Naisarani is a find because he's transferred exactly what he did for the Melbourne Rebels to Test level with strong running metres, workrate and good handling.
More bench minutes for utility back James O'Connor is the best way to keep his progress rolling but perhaps more than the 12 minutes he played against Argentina.