It’s here. After four years of waiting, the 2019 Rugby World Cup starts tonight when hosts Japan begin the tournament against Russia.
Powerful Wallabies forward Jack Dempsey intends adding a missing contact piece to his play, as he strives to persuade coach Michael Cheika he’s an indispensable member of a fiercely competitive but united back row group.
The 25-year-old NSW Waratah has this year added back and shoulder injuries to a catalogue of heath issues.
Ankle and hamstring injuries wiped out a large chunk of his 2017 and 2018 campaigns.
He played his second Test of the year last weekend, when he started in the less familiar No.8 role.
Dempsey is more accustomed to playing the flanker positions but developing his craft at No.8, and the versatility value it adds, could be vital in trying to stand out in a very competitive battle for back row places.
Michael Hooper David Pocock, Isi Naisarani, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Dempsey are the men eyeing the three starting spots.
“It kind of brings us together as a group,” Dempsey said.
“I’ve never been a part of a sub-group like a back row group that is not only so diverse … in (their) game styles, but also that we’re all aware of that.
“We all know what each other can bring and it kind of bonds us a bit, and then it’s up to Cheik to reach into the toolbox depending on the game and pick who he wants to pick, so it’s very exciting.”
Dempsey was industrious against Samoa, but has identified an area of his game he needs to lift in the lead-up to Australia’s first World Cup game against Fiji in Sapporo on September 21.
“I wasn’t stoked with my defensive performance so I think I’m just going to try and focus on that and just keep getting that strength in my shoulder,” he said.
“In terms of running fitness, I’m fairly confident.
“But in the next week we’ve got in Japan before the first game, I’ll look to to get that contact fitness up, that’s kind of that missing piece of the puzzle.”
It will be a first World Cup for Dempsey.
“The kind of vibe we’ve got off the guys who were at London in 2015 was that it’s just kind of like any other spring tour, but it’s just you’re kind of on steroids because the cities are all buzzing constantly for the whole six, seven, eight weeks,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey is still getting used to the requirements for a No.8.
“Definitely out of the three positions it’s the one I’m still learning the most, the stuff at the back of the scrum there, but (I’m) enjoying it. You get your hands on the ball a bit more,” he said.