Australia head coach Michael Cheika. Picture: REUTERS/ HANNAH MCKAY
Australia head coach Michael Cheika. Picture: REUTERS/ HANNAH MCKAY

Melbourne  — Australia coach Michael Cheika may hope to try out new players and give others a rest against Italy on Saturday but the Wallabies can ill-afford sweeping changes as they battle to return to winning form, utility back Matt Toomua has said.

The Wallabies slumped to their 10th defeat in 13 Tests with a 9-6 loss to Wales last weekend, sparking a fierce reaction in Australia where rugby pundits called for Cheika’s sacking a year away from the World Cup in Japan.

While there are fresh legs in the squad, including uncapped 18-year-old fullback Jordan Petaia, Australia should aim to field a strong side against the Italians in Padova, said Toomua.

“I think we’ve got to win, don’t we?” he said. “We’ve got to give respect to Italy as a team who we know can upset a lot of teams. We struggled against them a few years ago in Australia. So I think going out with wholesale changes wouldn’t be the smartest tactic.”

Australia have never lost to Italy in 17 matches but suffered a huge scare in their last meeting in Brisbane in 2017 before overhauling the Azzurri 40-27.

Toomua said he expects some changes to the Wallabies side that Wales coach Warren Gatland described as surprisingly easy to defend against.

“We’ve lost a few on the trot now and … there might be some selections that are enforced because of form rather than just giving guys a go. It will be imperative that we win the game to get momentum going into England.”

After Italy, the Wallabies finish their 2018 season against England next week.