Matt Burke: Australia need to play as a unit

Matt Burke 12:10 23/09/2015
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X-factor: Israel Folau (c) can be the Wallabies star player in this tournament.

I predicted before the England game that Fiji would be a wake-up call for them. The Fijians bring plenty of physicality but they also have the ability to surprise.

Look at 2007 when they qualified ahead of Wales and nearly knocked off South Africa in the quarter-final.

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Australia will play their number one team against Fiji, the number two team against Uruguay and then have the best team back on the pitch for the next two games against England and Wales.

They need to get some combinations going. I think that has been the criticism this year, especially in the last game against New Zealand where Michael Cheika changed the team around. There was a lot of head-scratching.

I think for the Wallabies’ sake, they need to work out a pecking order. I don’t think boys should be too disappointed if they’re on the bench or outside of the team because quite naturally there is a number one team, they just have to work that out.

In that sense, fly-half seems to be a real conundrum for Cheika.

I think Matt Toomua could easily occupy that role. I think he might be a bench player, a cameo toward the end of the game to add that flatness to the game. Take the ball on.

My choice would have been the New South Wales pair at nine and 10, with Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley. The other one in contention is obviously Quade Cooper. I just don’t know about having two ‘X-factor’ players in the team. Israel Folau is one.

He certainly has the ability to do something special but I think sometimes in the 10 role you have to be quite boring, catch the ball and pass, catch the ball and pass, kick to the corner and then have a dart and give the space to the other guy to dissect. That might be cancelled out if Cooper was in the team. I think he will play a part as the tournament goes on.

I think Fiji is a good opener for Australia. There’s no secrets for the Australians, they just have to go out there and win that game. I expect them to win and win well in the end but it’ll be tough. These tier two teams do have talent.

They’re getting better and competing for longer, maybe not for the full 80 minutes yet and that’s why they are maybe just outside the top 10, but they will stress Australia, as they did England, and they’ll do it to Wales too. There’s a bit of history also, with a few Fijians in the Wallabies team, so I suppose they’ll want to smash into our blokes.

That is part of growing through a tournament. You have to get these games under your belt and deal with them to be able to win a World Cup. 

*Matt Burke was capped 81 times by Australia and was part of the 1999 World Cup-winning team

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