Wallabies’ World Cup hell in jungle paradise
THE Wallabies will use the idyllic island retreat of New Caledonia for a secret Survivor-style World Cup camp.
Far from enjoying the white sandy beaches, players will be put through gruelling tasks in the jungle.
The trip has been devised by coach Michael Cheika to build team camaraderie and mental fortitude just two weeks before they leave for Japan.
The Wallabies will name their 31-man World Cup squad on August 23, then head to New Caledonia's capital of Noumea for at least a week, before returning to Sydney to play Samoa on September 7, then flying to Japan the next day.
Sending a squad of about 35 players and team staff to the luxury island will raise eyebrows given the cash-strapped Rugby Australia is forecasting an $8 million loss next year.
But a source said the Noumea trip is more cost-effective than Australian locations scouted for the camp, including in North Queensland.
The trip will come after Australia's second Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks in Auckland.
Cheika wants the team isolated, and it's believed the Wallabies have received a discount from Noumea's council for their camp.
Players have not been told exactly what they will be doing on the island, but team insiders suggested it will involve some physically and mentally draining exercises including jungle treks and mountain climbs, outdoor sleeping and middle-of-the-night wake-ups.
Before their 2015 World Cup campaign, Cheika held a similar team camp at the Notre Dame University in the United States where they focused on training in heat.
Given the Wallabies went on to make the final, the camp was hailed a success and Cheika is keen to replicate that formula again.
Noumea mirrors Japan for temperature and humidity, but is also useful as an escape from media and outside distractions.
The Wallabies have gone from World Cup finalists to sixth in the rankings in the past four years, and have won just seven of their past 24 games, heaping pressure on Cheika and leading to low expectations for their 2019 Cup campaign.
But if they can upset the struggling All Blacks in Perth on Saturday week, having scored a tough victory over Argentina last Saturday, there will be renewed confidence they can surprise opponents at the Cup.
The All Blacks, who drew with South Africa last weekend, will not play star centre Sonny Bill Williams in Perth.
Instead, Williams will play club rugby in Auckland for the next fortnight and then be available for the second Bledisloe at Eden Park on August 17 as he seeks more game time before the World Cup.
The Wallabies have not won the Bledisloe since 2002.
They begin the World Cup on September 21 against danger team Fiji, before their defining pool match against Six Nations champions Wales eight days later.