Two of the most-respected coaches in the Australian game have different opinions on the status of the country’s injured stars.
With just three days to go until Wallaby boss Robbie Deans selects his 30-man squad for the World Cup, serious doubts surround the fitness of seven front-line players.
Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Benn Robinson, Wycliff Palu, Drew Mitchell, Berrick Barnes and Rob Horne are all currently sidelined and have played no part in the ongoing Tri Nations campaign.
All seven of those men are serious contenders for a starting spot in the Wallabies’ first-choice XV but they will only be considered for World Cup selection if they pass a vigorous fitness test on Wednesday afternoon.
Their possible inclusion for the global gathering is the hottest topic of debate in Australian rugby at the moment, with former World Cup winning coach Bob Dwyer insisting that as many of the seven as possible must be involved in New Zealand.
"I think we need all our best players if we are going to make a good fist of this," said Dwyer, who led the Wallabies to World Cup gold in 1991.
"We're not that good that we can play without them so the sooner they get back the better."
But while Dwyer believes gambling on the star seven’s fitness is a risk worth taking, the Reds’ Super 15 winning boss Ewen McKenzie has warned against putting too much emphasis on players who lack game time, confidence and form.
"I'm sure that will be front of mind in their deliberation," added McKenzie.
"It's where (players) are confidence-wise as much as anything else; you can be physically fit but whether you have the confidence to take that into the fray. The confidence is not going to be there on day one.
"There's no doubt they can take some but they've got eight guys in the same category."
The eighth player McKenzie talks about is prop forward Ben Daley, who is currently out with a shoulder injury but would come into the frame if Robinson was ruled out through his ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
Robinson is the player thought least likely to travel, while wing Mitchell is also a major doubt due to the broken ankle he suffered in a Super 15 fixture back in April.
Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau (knee), prop James Slipper (ankle) and No8 Wycliff Palu (shoulder and knee) are likely to feature in the Australian Barbarians match against Canada on August 26 if they make Deans’ 30-man party, as is Mitchell if he can prove he has fully recovered in time to recapture the form that made him a certain starter last season.
Centres Barnes (concussion) and Horne (elbow) could yet face the All Blacks in the final Tri Nations encounter on August 27 after making their returns in Sydney club rugby earlier this month.