Australia tackle Georgia in their World Cup opener on Sunday – and Eddie Jones’ men can’t afford to be complacent against the Eastern Europeans.
Ranked 11th in the world, the Lelos will fancy their chances against the Wallabies, who have lost five successive Tests since Eddie Jones replaced Dave Rennie in January.
Jones, hailed as the ‘messiah’ in some Australian rugby circles, desperately needs a win first up in the Pool C clash at the Stade de France to keep the wolves at bay.
A defeat would be embarrassing for the two-time World Cup winners.
Who are Australia’s key players?
Towering lock Will Skelton is the new captain, with halfback Tate McDermott his deputy.
Eddie Jones opted for Will Skelton as his World Cup skipper in a move which shocked many rugby fans
Davit Niniashvili looms as the dangerman for the the Wallabies in their World Cup opener
Wallabies coach Eddie Jones needs a win first up at the Stade de France to keep the wolves at bay
Inside centre Samu Kerevi is a standout with ball in hand, and watch for wingers Mark Nawaqanitawase and Marika Koroibete to dominate in the air.
Despite his mounting critics, Jones is adamant his squad can shock the world – and also be a team Australian rugby fans are proud of.
‘This group of young men have the opportunity to do something special,’ he said.
‘For such a young team, the way they’ve conducted themselves during the preparation of the World Cup has been absolutely first class.
‘We also want to be that team everyone in Australia can’t wait to see play.
‘It’s not about me, it’s about what our players can do. All I’m trying to do is give them the opportunity to fulfil their dreams.’
Where can I watch the match?
The Wallabies’ clash with Georgia will be shown LIVE on Stan Sport and Channel 9 from 1.30am AEST.
Are Georgia any good?
In a word, yes. They will be the underdogs, but are emerging as a nation to watch closely.
Davit Niniashvili is poised to be a breakout World Cup star, with the 21-year-old flyer tipped to play fullback.
Wallabies team selections:
In a selection surprise, Jones named Ben Donaldson to start at fullback ahead of Andrew Kellaway.
Donaldson, 24, is usually a fly-half, but his goal-kicking prowess and instinctive footy IQ will see him in the no.15 jersey for the first time at Test level.
Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has sprung a major selection surprise, naming Ben Donaldson at fullback for Australia’s World Cup opener against Georgia
Eddie Jones is confident the Wallabies are heading in the right direction ahead of the World Cup – despite losing their past five Tests
The Wallabies’ last win came in November 2022, when they defeated Wales 39-34 in Cardiff
Australia’s forward pack – who were soundly beaten 41-17 by France last start – remains unchanged.
Jones’s squad is also the least experienced Australian team at a World Cup since the 2003 fixture against Namibia in Adelaide, with a combined 343 Test caps.
17 of the 23 players picked will be playing their first World Cup match at the Stade de France in Paris.
Veterans Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper were glaring omissions from Jones’ final World Cup squad.
Wallabies: Ben Donaldson, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Jordan Petaia, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Carter Gordon, Tate McDermott, Rob Valetini, Fraser McReight, Tom Hooper, Will Skelton (c), Richie Arnold, Taniela Tupou, Dave Porecki, Angus Bell.
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