How Wallabies plan to shock the world
From the first week of 2019, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika had his players sprinting laps in the stifling Sydney heat.
With temperatures nearing 40 degrees, Australia's top rugby stars were given no chance to ease into the new year, and quickly burned through their Christmas calories at the now infamous training camp.
A number of players suffered hamstring and calf injuries, such was the intensity of the training with no lead-in. Among them was key man David Pocock, who played four Super Rugby games before his calf tweaked again, leading to a near six-month lay-off.
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But the January torture training, followed by equally testing jungle challenges in the humidity of New Caledonia three weeks ago were designed for the one plan Cheika has devised to sensationally win the World Cup - run teams off their feet.
It was abundantly clear when the Wallabies arrived in Japan last week to 30 degree-plus heat and 85 per cent humidity that this World Cup will be very different to those played in the northern hemisphere.
Fast running, fast passing and superior fitness will secure the trophy here.
Which is why Cheika overhauled the Wallabies' game plan from previous years of spreading wide early, to attacking close to the ruck through power forwards and nippy halfbacks before unleashing wider options.
Australia want to hold the lion's share of possession in every game, wearing down opponents with relentless attack and clever trick set-plays.
In order to play the high-octane, up-tempo style, Cheika has asked his squad members to expand their all-round skills and be ready to fit into his system as required.
That means if a forward is first to the ruck, they can throw halfback-style passes, or run wide and offload to backs, while wingers must be able to clean out in the middle.
Cheika has also worked to create an environment where all players fit into the system, rather than devising a strategy around individual brilliance, therefore seeking to have different players performing the same roles during the Cup.
"The way I feel is that there are a lot of players who can interchange in this side," Cheika said.
"We might have everyone clear on the task they have to achieve in every game, it may not be one XV that plays all the way through.
"We're making the principles of our game very clear to all players, we've made a few changes to the game this year so we can interchange at any time, whether it's in one position or in couples or partnerships.
"It's a different way of looking at things, and I think that's what we have to do."
Halfback Nic White emerged as a key World Cup weapon with his brilliant display against the All Blacks in the opening Bledisloe Cup match last month and ensured he'll be the starting No. 9 ahead of Will Genia.
White's dangerous running game, developed at the Brumbies and enhanced during his recent seasons in England, will be crucial for Australia's attack because he can keep defenders close to the ruck with his threat.
That allows Australia's hard-running forwards the opportunity to hit holes wider of the ruck, or for their speedy wingers to seek short passes closer to White.
David Pocock's pilfering skills will be one of the Wallabies' greatest threats, and Australia can crush teams on turnover if they execute.
Samu Kerevi's power-running in the midfield will force opponents to double-team him, while Kurtley Beale's unpredictability from fullback will be another X-factor in the armoury.
And suddenly, Tolu Latu has risen to become Australia's first-choice hooker; his lineout throwing and discipline will be crucial.
As well as the personnel and the game plan, Cheika is relying on a proven factor; Australia's never-say-die attitude.
Regardless of the pundits' predictions, the Wallabies have consistency overcome the odds at World Cups to win (1991, 1999) and make the final (2003, 2015).
"I'm a believer from way back, I don't need to be convinced by a day or two because even the road travelled can be a bit bumpy, there's something inside of us, when we get to the tournaments and it's knockout, where I'm not sure why, we just look at the next game and say 'Let's go there'," Cheika said.
"I saw it in the last World Cup, and just understood it as I went along the way, no stress, be prepared, we're so well prepared this year.
"Considering everything that's happened we're in such a good spot around camaraderie in the team."