TOKYO, 28 Sep - Coach Michael Cheika has revealed the decision to switch up Australia's half-backs on the eve of the team's crunch Pool D game against Wales on Sunday is all part of a grand plan and is not based on form.
The move to pair Will Genia and Bernard Foley together at scrum-half and fly-half for the 32nd time caught many by surprise, with Nic White and Christian Lealiifano having been first choice for the Wallabies' final two matches in the 2019 Rugby Championship and opening Pool D clash against Fiji.
But the return of the experienced duo - Genia will win his 107th cap, Foley his 71st - has long been on Cheika's mind.
"Not form decisions at all," Cheika said. "I just want to make a different picture for this game. We thought about this from the very start, not in response to the game at the weekend. We had a bit of a plan around the different pictures we wanted to produce."
The corresponding pool-stage fixture at Rugby World Cup 2015 seems to be at the centre of the head coach's thinking. Both Genia and Foley, pictured above, started that match, which Australia won 15-6 with Foley kicking five penalties.
While Australia have won 13 of their past 14 matches against the Six Nations champions, fewer than eight points have separated the teams in eight of the past 12 games, with Wales having nudged their clash in November 2018 by a score of 9-6.
Foley, nicknamed "The Iceman", is seen as Australia's most reliable points scorer. However, the Waratahs man has struggled off the tee this year, landing just five out of nine kicks in a Wallabies jersey and boasting a success rate of 79 per cent in Super Rugby.
"The silver lining of not playing is that you get the extra sessions to work on your game," said Foley, who last started a competitive fixture for Australia against South Africa in the opening 2019 Rugby Championship round on 20 July. "I have been working with Mick Byrne (Australia skills coach) on the finer details, the micro-skills involved with kicking."
Foley's four missed kicks in Australia's final warm-up game against Samoa concerned many but the fly-half was quick to point out the reason.
"The thing about that game was we were kicking the World Cup balls beforehand and then we went back to the old balls because we weren't allowed to use them (the World Cup balls)," Foley explained.
"I think they (World Cup balls) do fly a bit differently. They probably float a bit different than we expect, or (as they have) usually in the past. But in saying that, you've got to trust your kick."
The Wallabies could certainly do with some consistency from Foley. The 30-year-old will become Australia's fourth kicker at RWC 2019, with Lealiifano handing over duties during the Fiji game, first to winger Reece Hodge and then replacement back Matt Toomua.
Cheika has no doubt his big decision will prove the right one.
"I obviously believe in him (Foley) a lot, I've got a lot of history with him," Cheika said. "At the World Cup you're not given anything, you've got to take everything. Here's an opportunity, go and take it. I'm sure he's in that mindset as well."