White or Genia? Conundrum for Australia coach Cheika

Scrum-half with the Peaky Blinders moustache is locked in a battle for the No.9 shirt with veteran Genia.

TOKYO, 1 Oct - Nic White or Will Genia? Will Genia or Nic White? Australia coach Michael Cheika has a number of big decisions to make after the Wallabies' loss to Wales on Sunday and the identity of his first-choice scrum-half is one of the most pressing. 

Neither player is making the choice easy. In the opening pool D match against Fiji, Genia came on in the 51st minute for a subdued White.

Genia helped turn the game on its head. The Wallabies scored 24 unanswered points during the 29 minutes he was on the field. The scrum-half, who is soon to retire, won his 106th cap. That experience told: Genia seemed to clock before anyone else that the Australia pack had a hold on Fiji. His first touch was a 40-metre punt that ultimately led to the first of two successive rolling-maul tries. 

A week later, the roles were reversed. Genia gave way to White after a torrid first 52 minutes during which he conceded an intercept try to his opposite number, Gareth Davies, and missed one of the two tackles he attempted.

White is the younger man by two-and-a-half years. He visibly upped the tempo, but also directed Australia around the field with clarity and confidence. The Wallabies then pulled back to within one point of Wales from an 18-point deficit.

Both players acknowledge that they have yet to present a compelling case for the starter's jersey. But circumstances would seem to favour the finisher.

"In these conditions everyone gets pretty tired and you're coming on with fresh legs so it's exciting," White said.

"When you start there is a degree of unknown, but when you sit on the bench you can see the game unfold. You talk amongst each other and then, when you get on, you've seen a few things."

Genia made an almost identical comment about his experience as a replacement against Fiji.

The statistics from Australia's opening two games are no help to Cheika either. When Genia started he made far more metres in his 52 minutes against Wales than White had made in the No.9 jersey against Fiji (21m as opposed to 0m). But White set up a try, made more tackles, and secured two more turnovers.

Maybe White's self-professed point of difference will propel him to the forefront of Cheika's thinking.

"I started growing it a little while ago," White said of his magnificently bushy moustache, pictured above. White revealed that his facial hair is inspired by the character of Arthur Shelby in hit BBC TV show Peaky Blinders, a gangster epic set in Birmingham, England, in the early 20th century. "It's just something different and I happen to think I suit it." 

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