BIRMINGHAM, 27 Sept – Michael Cheika enjoyed a worry-free afternoon at Villa Park on Sunday as Australia struck early before running in 11 tries against Uruguay. But he now faces a selection headache ahead of next week’s pivotal clash with England.
The Wallabies coach made 14 changes to the side that started their campaign with a 28-13 victory over Fiji, when they missed out on a bonus point.
Such a slip-up never seemed likely in their second Pool A outing as Sean McMahon (pictured) touched down after just seven minutes and Joseph Tomane added another two minutes later.
Despite some sloppy play, Australia went over three more times before half-time to make sure of the extra point before growing in confidence and demonstrating some dazzling play with ball in hand to triumph 65-3.
Man-of-the-match McMahon was particularly impressive, leaving Cheika with some big decisions to make before his side take on the hosts, after resting the likes of David Pocock, Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy.
“There are a few players that definitely put their hand up for selection,” Cheika said. "It's getting a bit ridiculous because every man-of-the-match we have is a seven or eight.
“Obviously we have got some pretty influential players in those positions but as long as [McMahon] is there, rattling their cage, that will keep them honest and it will keep him honest too, going for them.
“I was very proud of his performance because he knows the guys are there and he has just got to keep taking it to them.”
McMahon certainly took it to Uruguay on Sunday.
After getting the ball rolling with a clever break off the back of a stalling maul to break the deadlock, the 21-year-old finished with two tries, 66 metres gained and nine tackles made at a 90 per cent success rate.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said after the victory. “It’s my first World Cup game. It’s like dreams becoming reality for me.
"Now to get to the World Cup and get a man-of-the-match performance in front of such a great crowd is unbelievable.”
Uruguay almost achieved a try of their own with a late assault on the Australian line, but the Wallabies stood firm.
Despite the disappointment of missing out on a try, Los Teros coach Pablo Lemoine recognised the progress his side had made since losing 72-6 against South Africa during their last World Cup appearance in 2003.
“Our last game against a tier one nation from the southern hemisphere, apart from Argentina, because we work with them often, was against South Africa and we lost by 80 points,” said Lemoine.
“The rugby play was not as dynamic as today, so if I had to compare both matches then I would have to say there has been an evolution.
“We have to take into account that Uruguay has not played in the World Cup in 12 years so maybe the difference is not as great now.”
Uruguay now have nine days to wait until their next match, against Fiji, while the Wallabies’ attention turns to that huge game at Twickenham.
As well as the selection dilemma caused by positive performances, Cheika may also have to deal with the loss of Wycliff Palu, who suffered a hamstring injury, and Will Skelton, who has a shoulder problem.
Drew Mitchell will be itching for another start, too, having become his country's leading RWC try-scorer with 12, just three short of Jonah Lomu’s all-time mark.
Cheika refused to pass an judgment on their Pool A rivals England and Wales but admitted: "We are going to have to improve on the first two matches to be able to compete with England. England are the home team and they are going to be the favourites."