Cheika won't be fighting European clubs

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika won't be calling on any Europe-based players involved in the finals and he expects there won’t be any issues when he does call them back.

With Kurtley Beale the latest 60-Test wallabies player to flag an overseas move, Cheika has a swathe of potential players to call on during the dedicated windows this season.

Cheika expressed his frustration on FOX SPORTS’ Rugby 360 on Wednesday that clubs were reportedly trying to dissuade players from making themselves available for international duty before signing big money overseas contracts.

“I know they’ve been putting a lot of pressure on (Beale) not to play Test footy either, which is happening with a lot of the English clubs now.”

Wasps football director Dai Young said on Wednesday that the club would be happy to support Beale, even if it meant the Wallabies back coming over early, another suggestion Cheika didn’t take too kindly to.

“I was just a bit surprised because if he’s going to be right in September/October he’s going to be playing for us in the Rugby Championship, he won’t be playing for Wasps.”

Toulon’s owner Mourad Boudjellal has threatened to suspend players’ payments for any times they’re in Test camps and Wallabies duo Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell reportedly took a major pay cut to play in last year’s World Cup.

Cheika said he wouldn’t be abusing World Rugby’s regulation nine,  that gives him first rights to eligible players and doesn't expect an international impasse over the issue.

“There’s people who have said they won't pay players if they go (to play Tests),” he said.

“I don’t know how legal that stuff is.

“At the end of the day, let’s say now in France, I’m not going to take players away from their clubs that are playing finals footy.

“There’s an opportunity in June when they’re playing, for other players to step up, grow our talent and use it as a way to build from the young player coming through.

“When we need experience to come back at a certain stage and that is on offer then we’ll take it because we want to have as much depth as possible.

“As much depth to choose from and then we’ll try and pick the best players who are in form for that challenge.”

As for competing with the European clubs to keep players in Super Rugby, Cheika said that has to come through in the pathways.

“I think we’ve had a lot more to do with our U20s this year in relation to the mental side of the game and what it means to be playing for your country and then to be able to go on and play Super Rugby as well and make those things important.

“That’s a process that will take while of repeating that message so after two or three years  that message is starting to flood through and young players think there might be some dough on offer overseas but I want to commit and play my rugby in my home state or for my nation.”

June’s Test series will give a handful of opportunities to new faces through injuries and overseas departures, with the suddenly vacant number 12 the number one discussion point.

Beale looked the man most likely to fill Matt Giteau’s shoes in that jersey but his knee injury has opened the gates open for that.

Cheika on Thursday threw up a handful of names to fill that spot, including Brumbies’ Christian Lealiifano and Queensland Reds centre Samu Kerevi.

“No matter how we spin it there’s going to be a bunch of new combinations and...the couple of weeks before the first Test would be a really good opportunity for those guys to get to know each other,” he said.

“Whether it’s Samu and Tevita (in the centres) or Christian and Tevita.

“Whatever combination that might be, we’ll just get them together up there and for a couple of weeks and let them get to know each other and build the combination.

“Then they’ll have three games to play. Good opportunity to build a new combination in the centres.”