Rookie Wallabies won't be 'eaten alive'

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika won’t be afraid to throw new faces into the mix against England.

Cheika included 10 uncapped players in his initial 39-man squad, few areas more fresh than the second row.

Stalwarts Rob Simmons, James Horwill and Sam Carter are the more experienced heads in the unit, with Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold both uncapped, while Will Skelton only has a handful of Test matches.

Despite going up against a second row that Cheika has already highlighted as a major threat in the series, the Wallabies mentor said he wouldn’t be afraid to throw a fresh lock in.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to get eaten alive,” he said.

“(They’re) experienced yes, they have a great set of locks.

“They’ve got four locks some of them who can double out in the back row are all top quality.

“You’ve got prepared, you don’t have fear of something going wrong.

“The way I see it is (it’s time) for a few guys now to put their hand up during the week and say, ‘I want to take an opportunity,’ and I’ve seen in Super Rugby with some of these guys that i can tell they’re looking to do the things that are going to get them selected.

“Now all together in a condensed environment, all of them hitting off against each other, we’ll see who looks the most comfortable that space of being uncomfortable.”

Samu Kerevi is one of a number of centre contenders. Photo: Brian Cook PhotographyCheika will be forced into changes for the opening Test, with Adam Ashley-Cooper, Will Genia, Drew Mitchell and Matt Giteau all unavailable, along with injuries to Joe Tomane and Kane Douglas and said he would be looking for balance.

With a relatively short lead up compared to their northern hemisphere counterparts, who have played a full Six Nations campaign and played out a Premiership season, Cheika admitted he would have to err on the side of caution with his picks.

“Bit of a balance,” he said.

“Some of that (picking experienced campaigners) yes, no doubt, some of form and some of combinations.

“We’re obviously going to have a different centre combination that goes in, so it will be how those combinations come together.”

That centre combination is one of the most intriguing, with an injury to Kurtley Beale, with Cheika having the option of a second playmaker at 12 or a ball-carrying, bullocking combination.

One of Cheika’s major dilemmas there is with Reds outside centre Samu Kerevi, who has been one of the form 13s this season, but has to leapfrog incumbent Tevita Kuridrani to snatch that spot.

“At this point there’s definitely a chance of him playing,” he said.

“As you’ve seen our backline changes around a fair bit in game time from defence to attack at all points.

“I like what he’s done at 13 for the Reds but he’s got some handy competition there with Kuridrani and Israel who’s playing well.

“It’s the matter of getting the right balance for the game as a whole for the start and the finish, picking the right guys to do both jobs."