Cooper Cronk and Daly Cherry-Evans are ready to face the toughest test of their fledgling international halves partnership against New Zealand on Saturday.
Both Cronk and Cherry-Evans were on Thursday passed fit to play the Kiwis at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium, after battling flu earlier in the week.
The illness was a further interruption to the development of their scrumbase combination after coach Tim Sheens was forced to cancel training on Wednesday.
Cherry-Evans limped off with a hip injury before halftime and didn’t return in the Kangaroos 30-12 loss to the Kiwis three weeks ago in his first outing alongside Cronk in the green and gold.
He then only trained sporadically in the lead-up to the win over England two weeks ago due to the complaint.
But since then Cronk and Cherry-Evans have helped to steer Australia into the tournament decider, up against in-form Kiwi halves Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran who have had things their own way for much of the tournament behind the monster New Zealand pack.
“I think Cooper and I have improved together, it is fair to say that,” Cherry-Evans said.
“But for us to think we have got it all down pat and all worked out would be a lie.
“We are still learning each other’s games and we are still trying to feed off each other there on the field.
“I’m definitely feeling more confident there, it is just a natural process that takes place in camp.
“As the weeks go on you build mateship, friendship and combinations – they slowly build and improve.
“Things are getting better with Cooper and I feel I am contributing to the side every game.
“But I would be very disappointed if I didn’t save my best for last.”
With Cronk’s regular halves partner Johnathan Thurston ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury, Manly half Cherry-Evans will face off in a rare opportunity against Sea Eagles five-eighth Kieran Foran.
“We are not going to shut him down, by just me going out and trying to get Kieran,” Cherry-Evans said.
“We have to make sure we put together a great plan to stop Shaun and Kieran this week, they are a huge focal point for their attack.”
Flu-stricken quartet Cronk, Cherry-Evans, Sione Mata’utia and David Klemmer were quarantined on Wednesday, but they all trained strongly on Thursday and will play on Saturday.
Around 200 fans watched the Australians train in the rugby league stronghold of Porirua about 25 kilometres north of the Wellington city centre.
Corey Parker was confident the drama wouldn’t affect Australia’s preparation for the tournament decider.
“It happened to the two playmakers which wasn’t ideal but we will get into training now and knuckle down,” he said.
“It doesn’t change things too much, we have been in camp for a month now and everything is the same, our structures and everything has been in place for a while now.”