SYDNEY – Michael Cheika defended the Wallabies coaching team after a miserable season Thursday as he prepared for another tough assignment against the All Blacks next week in Japan.
Cheika, who named three uncapped players in his squad, has some breathing space after Australia's stunning comeback from 24 points down at half-time to beat Argentina 45-34 in Salta earlier this month.
There had been growing calls for the coach to be axed after six losses in eight matches this season ahead of the trip to South America.
Cheika is due to meet Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle and other officials on Friday, to outline his plan through to next year's World Cup in Japan.
But he said suggestions of an independent selector or coaching consultant were wide of the mark, and threw his support behind backs coach Stephen Larkham, defence coach Nathan Grey and forwards coach Simon Raiwalu.
“Why do I believe in them? Because I've seen them do it,” he said of his assistants. “But what is important to note is that we do need to make some changes perhaps in ourselves and how we operate,” Cheika added, admitting the team needed more consistency.
“We've been inconsistent, the big thing is around what technique do we need to be consistent,” he said. “In a relatively inexperienced young group (of players), consistency is always an issue. But I believe in them.”
NSW Waratahs lock Jed Holloway earned his first call-up after an impressive Super Rugby season, while teammate and scrum-half Jake Gordon and Melbourne Rebels flanker Angus Cottrell also got the nod.
The untried trio will be hoping to force their way into the squad for Australia's November Tests in Europe and make a late push for consideration for next year's World Cup.
Queensland Reds centre Samu Kerevi also makes his return in the 31-man squad after missing the entire Rugby Championship with a bicep injury.
The 25-year-old has not played since the third Test against Ireland in June, with Reece Hodge starting at outside centre in all six games in his absence.
But Tevita Kuridrani was again left out as he continues to recover from injury.
The clash against New Zealand in Yokohama on October 27 will be a memorable occasion for Sekope Kepu who is in line to become the Wallabies' ninth centurion, and the first 100-cap prop in Australian Test history.
The Wallabies squad is:
Jermaine Ainsley, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Angus Cottrell, Jack Dempsey, Folau Fainga'a, Ned Hanigan, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper (capt), Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, David Pocock, Izack Rodda, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Taniela Tupou
Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Jake Gordon, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Jack Maddocks, Sefa Naivalu, Nick Phipps
Agence France-Presse (AFP)