Will Genia is happy to “fit in” when he is needed as the Australian centurion looks to end a storied career at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The 31-year-old scrum-half faces a battle with Nic White for the starting role in Japan. But he insisted the team will come first as two-time champions Australia prepare for their Pool D opener against Fiji in Sapporo this weekend.
“Whatever role I’m chosen to play – whether it’s from the start or at the back end of games, I’m not particularly fussed,” he told a media briefing at the Wallabies training base in Odawara.
“I’m confident in my game and what I’ll bring if given the opportunity,” Genia, who started just one of this season’s four Rugby Championship games but got the nod in Australia’s recent 34-15 win over Samoa in their last Test, said.
“The main difference is when you start the game you can build into it. When you come off the bench you want to bring energy and bring impact into the game, but you don’t want to be trying to do too much – you want to try and fit into the way the game is being played.”
Genia, who has won 105 Australia caps and is set to bring the curtain down on an illustrious Wallabies career in Japan, joked that fly-half Bernard Foley could even get a runout ahead of him as an emergency scrum-half.
“He’s been feeding the scrum, practicing his passing,” the Melbourne Rebel star said.
“If the worst comes to the worst we have got that cute little thing playing half-back as well.”
But Genia tipped Australia to benefit from the competition between himself and White, the other specialist scrum-half in Michael Cheika’s squad.
“We bounce ideas off each other as to how we can get better or what we would do in this situation,” Genia, a veteran of Australia’s 2011 and 2015 World Cup campaigns, said. “He’s pretty loud and pretty out there, I’m a pretty laid back sort of guy.”
Australia will be expected to join Wales in the knockout stage from Pool D, which also involves Uruguay and Georgia, but treble-chasing New Zealand, England and South Africa are among a handful of teams tipped ahead of them to win the World Cup.
Still, a thumping 47-26 victory against the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship last month demonstrated the Aussies can’t be ruled out of the equation and assistant coach Shaun Berne backed Cheika to get the Wallabies firing.
“Michael Cheika is Michael Cheika,” he said.
“He hasn’t changed in the 15 years I have known him – he’s good at trying to get the best out of people,” Berne added.
Wallabies utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper, meanwhile, will be hoping to join George Gregan as only the second Australian to play at four World Cups.
He recalled scoring in Australia’s 93-3 rout of Japan at the 2007 World Cup. “I was just a young bloke – fat face, short hair, crew cut,” winced the 35-year-old.
“I have no idea why I shaved my head, it was an awful look. Hard to put into words.”
Despite Ashley-Cooper’s own proximity to retirement, Genia backed his teammate, insisting: “He’s still got it!”