Former Wallabies skipper Will Genia is pushing hard to reclaim the halfback spot from Nick Phipps, with backs coach Stephen Larkham saying he’s back to his dynamic best.
A fully-fit Genia has been a rare sight in Australian rugby in recent years, with a spate of knee injuries curtailing the career of the once-brilliant playmaker.
A further knee injury suffered in a brave victory over the Springboks in July was yet another unwanted setback following an injury-plagued Super Rugby season.
But, according to Larkham, the 27-year-old, who came off the bench in Australia’s warm-up thrashing of the USA, is ready to give the World Cup a serious shake.
“He’s back,” the typically measured Larkham said.
“I think the games that he’s played this year – he hasn’t played many – but he’s been much better than what we’ve seen.
“Earlier this year in Super Rugby he was somewhat hampered in the way he was playing but he’s very motivated at the moment, particularly at this level.
“He’s back to his full fitness.
“We don’t want anyone to really overplay their hand in any position but he’s got good balance with running, passing and kicking.
“And his defence is good as well.”
At his best, Genia is among the best in the world and a vital weapon at Michael Cheika’s disposal – but should his confidence dip, Larkham warned what could follow.
“I think everything falls away,” he cautioned.
“His running falls away, his confidence to kick falls away.
“But what we’ve seen this year is he’s back to where he needs to be.”
Working in his favour is his strong combination with 2011 World Cup halves partner Quade Cooper.
Larkham explained no final decisions had been made on the makeup of the team, and said every possible pairing had been given time together – including a Genia-Bernard Foley duo.
“Again, that combination’s worked together – probably not as long as the other combination, but we’ve been chopping and changing every training run since we’ve been together this year,” he said.
“The nine is doing his job and making sure when he needs to take control of his team.
“Both of them are doing that well.”