There are just as many questions as ever over Michael Cheika’s World Cup plans as the Wallabies turn their attention to the might of New Zealand.
Cheika on Friday is due to name his squad for the Rugby Championship decider against the All Blacks on Saturday August 8 in Sydney – and even after two wins in two outings, the coach is still yet to truly put his cards on the table.
Only eight players started both Test victories over South Africa and Argentina, suggesting Cheika is halfway there when it comes to nailing down his first-choice 15.
But there are still some big gaps to be filled, some tough decisions to be made and practically zero margin for error.
There’s also a new face to consider – former Test lock Kane Douglas, who could be thrown straight back into the Australian set-up after sorting out his release from Irish club Leinster.
Douglas will be eligible for Wallaby selection the moment he puts pen to paper with a Super Rugby club, and it’s believed his signing with the Queensland Reds is imminent.
Provided he is over the back injury which had ruined the second half of his season in Ireland, Douglas is a strong chance to be called up to provide competition for incumbent pair Rob Simmons and Will Skelton.
David Pocock’s sterling performance in Mendoza, his first Test start since 2012, should mean he is unmovable in the back row, and he’ll likely be joined by Wycliff Palu, who will be ready to go after an extended rest.
Cheika also has to figure out his best front-row combination, with Australia’s scrum beaten early on against the Springboks and the Pumas – only for the bench forwards to come on and reverse the trend on both occasions.
Quade Cooper’s patchy form might have given Bernard Foley the upper hand in the battle for the No.10 jersey – but, then again, Cheika could opt to give the enigmatic Queenslander one last crack against New Zealand, his long-time tormenters.
Then there’s Will Genia (knee), Matt Giteau (nose) and Rob Horne (calf), who all missed the Argentina trip due to injury, while Matt Toomua lasted only 10 minutes in Mendoza before suffering a concussion.