Michael Hooper gets a spell before the big quarter-final showdown.
Michael Hooper gets a spell before the big quarter-final showdown.

Key Wallabies told to rest up for England

FRONTLINE flanker Michael Hooper has been rested and stalwart Rob Simmons drafted for his 100th Test in calculated changes for a Wallabies team with one eye now on a cut-throat Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

The Wallabies are giving full respect to the burly hard men of the physical Georgian pack ahead of Friday night's final pool game in Shizuoka but the late team tweaks have a bigger plan in mind.

Hooper has been hooked from the reserves to freshen him up from general combat soreness after three straight games while towering lock Adam Coleman has also been withdrawn from the bench.


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It is the business-end of the tournament in terms of correcting the team's slow-start curse and discipline on high tackles before a quarter-final against England in Oita on Saturday week.

Coming off the bench for this milestone Test, in place of Coleman, will be a wonderful achievement for Simmons, 30, who is a 10-year stayer in his physically-taxing position.

He just would never have imagined becoming the 11th 100-Test Wallaby against a team the Australians have never played before at stadium they have never run onto.

He will have his hands full when the Georgians make it a wrestling pack battle because fullback Soso Matiashvili promised treating rugby like a war was in their blood.

"We had wars and were defending our country all the time so it's quite natural for Georgian people to fight, to wrestle," Matiashvili said.

"I think that's why Georgia are strong people. That's why I think we're good at scrum, we love to wrestle and fight and love to win the fight.

"If we dominate that part I think we will have a good chance to win."

The Welsh ran in six tries for a 43-14 win over Georgia and the Wallabies need to muscle up in the forwards before letting new five-eighth Matt Toomua uncork some sparkle from the backs for a similar result.

Getting sharp job-share minutes of direction from Toomua and reserve Christian Lealiifano at No.10 would be ideal, especially if rain and wind demand different skills than just dry-night, spin-it-wide footy.

Backrower Lukhan Salakaia-Loto will relish another audition for a quarter-final role as Friday's fill-in for Hooper just as starting flanker Jack Dempsey is after another big game, too.

Matt Toomua gets his chance in the No.10. Picture: Getty Images
Matt Toomua gets his chance in the No.10. Picture: Getty Images

Young lock Izack Rodda saluted Simmons as the mentor who showed him the ropes in his first Queensland Reds squad trainings in 2015.

"I learnt the trade under Simmo when I started, I have a lot of respect for him and what this milestone means for him and his family," Rodda said.

Stand-in skipper David Pocock stressed how important it was to get momentum from this game with players sticking their hands up with big games like two-try centre Tevita Kuridrani did against Uruguay last weekend.

It should please the Wallabies that Georgia coach Milton Haig identified the scrum as a big area of improvement for the Wallabies ahead of cut-throat bigger games.

"Their scrum has improved a heck of a lot, even over the last six to eight months with a little bit more unity and certainly more horsepower than previously," Haig said.