Chin music: Will Skelton and Kane Douglas during the testy encounter at training. Photo: Brendan Esposito Hair and a facial: Skelton and Douglas were locked in combat before being ‘yellow carded’ by coach Michael Cheika. Photo: Brendan Esposito
D-day for Sam Burgess
Wallabies second rowers Will Skelton and Kane Douglas were sent to the sidelines during training on Wednesday by coach Michael Cheika after a heated and physical exchange as opponents in a driving maul after a lineout.
The unofficial yellow carding of the pair would be costly and earn Cheika’s ire in the locker room afterwards were it a game, but the Wallabies coach was brimming with delight behind the duelling duo as they walked off.
The physicality of the Wallabies forwards at Kippax Oval at Moore Park in the morning session was just what Cheika was wanting of his two packs in the squad of 31 that leaves on their World Cup campaign on Saturday.
Just as happy as Cheika was his set-piece coach, Argentinian Mario Ledesma, the former Pumas hooker who played in four World Cups.
Was the aggression showed on the training paddock asked of the players, or did it come naturally?
“No,” Ledesma said. “That’s something Cheika really likes, not only in the scrum sessions or the driving mauls, but every training is really intense.
“[There] is this change in mindset of the whole team and getting the forwards to work even harder. I think it is really a good thing.
“We won’t be training like this the whole World Cup. We don’t have any games on the weekend. This is the time to do it.”
The Wallabies depart from Sydney on Saturday for the US. They will play the US Eagles in a one-off Test match at Soldier Field in Chicago on September 5, before heading to England for the World Cup.
Ledesma said that Wallabies squad had ramped up its training across-the-board and not just in the forwards over the last days since the selection was announced last Friday.
“The boys are working really hard this last week, harder than what we have been doing the last couple of weeks, so they are struggling a little bit. But that’s the way it should go,” Ledesma said.
However, Ledesma said that even before the squad announcement and during the Rugby Championship the intensity at training had increased incrementally.
“They have been really training really hard, from the beginning – [over] the last six weeks,” Ledesma.
“Some weren’t used to train[ing] like that, especially [in] the contact area; but everybody got used to it really quick. And the attitude and the intent was really good fro the start.”