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Wallabies boss Michael Cheika decides Slipper a wrong fit for Twickenham clash

Published 06/10/2016

Leroy Houston, pictured, is in line for his Australia debut against Argentina at Twickenham on Saturday
Leroy Houston, pictured, is in line for his Australia debut against Argentina at Twickenham on Saturday

Michael Cheika has challenged James Slipper to keep pace with Australia's "generational change".

Head coach Cheika has insisted he is right to usher through a new era for the Wallabies, despite six defeats in eight Test matches since the Rugby World Cup final.

Waratahs' 22-year-old prop Tom Robertson has been preferred to 82-cap Slipper among Australia's replacements for Saturday's Rugby Championship clash with Argentina at Twickenham.

Cheika believes Australia must boost their depth in order to return to the top of the Test tree, and vowed to keep blooding young talent.

"It's definitely a tough call for James," said Cheika, after omitting 27-year-old Slipper from the match squad to face Argentina.

"But we're really trying to be diligent around rebuilding the team, with the discipline and detail of everyone's role.

"Other players have missed out because of that and discussing with James he needs to improve parts of his game that aren't up to the standards that he has.

"I want him to go beyond those standards that he's set for himself in the past.

"And sometimes that's going to create a contest with young players coming up behind you.

"Tom has played loosehead in the past. We need to have a flipper in there as well, a prop who can play both sides.

"We feel he's a player who can fill that role so we've been working towards that.

"I don't think Tom Robertson would have imagined he would be ahead of James Slipper at the start of the year."

Bath favourite Leroy Houston remains in line for his long-awaited Wallabies debut on Saturday, after helping to solve Australia's back-row injury problems.

The Queensland Reds back-rower is back at former club Bath on loan until the end of November, to offset injuries to Taulupe Faletau and David Denton.

Bath allowed the 29-year-old to link up with the Wallabies, with Sean McMahon the latest Australian loose forward to be sidelined.

Full-time medical student Robertson's elevation ahead of Slipper acts a symbol of Cheika's latest Wallabies revolution, with the former Leinster boss adamant he is taking the right path by handing younger players chances to impress.

Cheika insisted Australia must forget entirely their run to last year's World Cup final, where New Zealand prevailed 34-17.

"I think it's pretty clear we're going through a generational change," said Cheika.

"There are nine different players in the side for Saturday from that Rugby World Cup final team, and four or five on the bench.

"We understand that our challenge in Australian rugby is to build more depth and we're going to do that.

"But we're not going to cry about it, talking about losing players overseas. We won't whinge about a lack of depth - we'll go out and make that depth instead.

"That said, winning matches is still what it's all about. No one cares about second - I can't remember who was in the World Cup final, I only remember that New Zealand won it.

"In a club environment you can build depth by buying and selling players, so this is a new experience for me from a selection point of view.

"But I really believe this is the way to go, it's the right thing to do, I don't know if takes guts or not, it's just what we've go to do."

Eddie Jones' England whitewashed the Wallabies three-nil in the summer for their first Test win on Australian soil. But Cheika believes Australia should still have won all three matches, despite such a large turnover of players from the World Cup.

"Against England we had two games where we scored more tries than them and still lost," said Cheika.

"We were outplayed in the two games against New Zealand, but aside from that we could have won the others.

"I'm not looking to say that's any excuse for losing games, it's not.

"But we've solved our defensive issues, so we're getting there.

"We've had a lot of heat thrown our way in different directions and we've dealt with that, so I'm proud of the lads."

Australia team: I Folau, D Haylett-Petty, S Kerevi, B Foley, R Hodge, Q Cooper, W Genia, S Sio, S Moore (capt), S Kepu, R Arnold, A Coleman, D Mumm, M Hooper, L Timani.

Replacements: J Hanson, T Robertson, A Alaalatoa, K Douglas, S Fardy, L Houston, N Phipps, T Kuridrani, S Naivalu.

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