Wallabies at the ready with Sio, Folau fighting fit
TWO months ago, a Wallabies injury bulletin on the stellar full-back Israel Folau and his fragile ankle would have generated just a little more interest than an update on the loose-head prop Scott Sio and his dodgy elbow - not just among Australians at large, but in Sio's own front room.
This close to a World Cup final against New Zealand, things are just a little different.
The Wallabies know that to stand an earthly of denying the All Blacks at Twickenham tomorrow morning, they will have to stack up in the scrum.
Hence the importance of Sio's return to the front row, six days after missing the semi-final win over Argentina - a game in which the Australian set piece found itself in all manner of strife.
"Scott has been training fully, he's eager to play and it's good to have him back," said coach Michael Cheika, who otherwise stayed with the players who started against the Pumas.
"We've had a strong focus this week on improving certain areas of our game where we feel we haven't been at our best in previous matches.
"Is Scott fit? Is there a risk in picking him? You can't hide in the position he plays. You have to get out there and get into it. He's fine.''
Sio's return in place of James Slipper, who spent much of the semi-final on the wrong end of the referee's whistle, is a significant bonus for the Australians.
While Cheika might have rested easy in his bed if Folau had failed to pass muster - the former rugby league and Aussie rules player has been less captivating than usual over the course of this tournament, so the coach must have been tempted to run the brilliant Kurtley Beale in his place - the loss of Sio would have wrecked his peace of mind.
Every side with title pretensions needs a loose head worthy of the name, and the 23-year-old Brumbies player is far and away the number one No.1 in this Wallabies group.
The assumption the Wallabies will be the ones feeling the pressure tomorrow did not cut much ice with Cheika.
"People like to talk about this whole pressure thing, but for me and these players, we just love the game," he said. "If rugby was still amateur, everyone would still be involved. The only time you feel pressure is if you haven't prepared as best you can.
"The cards will fall where they may, but if you've put yourselves in a position to give your best, that's all you can do."