Powell inclusion no prank

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Joe Powell thought it was a prank when an email popped into his inbox from Michael Cheika, congratulating him on his Wallabies squad inclusion.

Powell, 22, has never met Cheika and has never started in a Super Rugby match but on Sunday he will join the 38 other invitees as the Wallabies prepare for the England Test series.

Cheika’s keenness to keep selections a surprise meant Powell had no idea he would be included, worried about telling anyone else in case it was a joke

“Originally I thought it was a joke, only got it about 12 minutes ago,” he said, speaking after the announcement on Thursday.

“I asked one of the boys to have a look at it because i thought it was a bit of a joke and then Bernie brought me up and said it was for real. 

“I didn’t want to tell anyone because I didn't want to seem like an idiot but Bernie confirmed it.”

Powell is used to unlikely call-ups - his Brumbies debut came unexpectedly last year, plucked from a job as a carpenter’s apprentice to be included in the Super Rugby squad, before  having that extended this year.

 Joe Powell was a left-field selection from Michael Cheika. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyWallabies selection had never entered his mind but it’s always been a dream and though he knows a Test debut is still a way off, he’s ecstatic just to be included.

“Anyone growing up in Canberra  wants to play for the Brumbies and the Wallabies,” he said.

“A goal of mine but didn’t think it would come at all. I’m not really playing much having it come so early is really unexpected.

“I’m not expecting to play but just to be named in the squad and learn as much as I can really looking forward to it.

Despite his limited Super Rugby minutes, Wallabies coach Cheika said he saw something special in Powell.

“I’ve always talked to players (and said) that it doesn’t matter if you’re playing five minutes or 80 minutes,” he said.

“What you do out there in that space of time has got to be the best you can do and I know that he hasn’t had a lot of minutes but the minutes he’s played he’s looked really good.

“Sometimes you go with a bit of gut feel there too.

“I’ve never even met him so I don’t claim I’ve got a relationship with him or that I know him inside out but I like what he’s given on the field around pace and his attention to the ruck.

“He’s always there - that’s the half back’s job, he’s always there and his delivery’s good, it’s sharp. I just felt like I would like to give someone an opportunity like that.”

 Nic Stirzaker has been handed a challenge. Photo: Getty ImagesFor every selection, there's a player dealing with being left out and Cheika said he had been in contact with Rebels halfback Nic Stirzaker and encouraged him to take on the challenge.

“I feel Stirzaker is a player of enormous potential,” he said.

“I would just like to see him fulfil that potential on the field, week by week and (focus on) the basics of his game.

“I’m sure we’re going to see that from him and that means we'll have another player in the mix.”

Cheika said there may have been unrealistic expectations on Stirzaker, who was earmarked as a Test bolter almost as soon as Will Genia departed for France, and his Rebels partner Jack Debreczeni.

“(There was) a fair bit of expectation put on him and Jack at the start of the year, which I don’t think is necessary to be honest, I think we should just let players play and see what happens.

“I’ve met Stirzaker a couple of times and it looks like he’s a tough rooster.

“I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be something that he’s going to take it on as a big challenge to get himself into the squad."