No confusion over Cheika's centres

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika hopes utility back Christian Lealiifano is thinking of his family when he runs out at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

Lealiifano has been absent from Wallabies camp, awaiting the birth of son, Jeremih, joining up with the Wallabies squad on Wednesday night.

Cheika said Lealiifano’s commitment to the team was never questioned and he appreciated the difficulty of leaving his partner and new addition to play in the Test side.

“In a man’s life when he gets to have his first child, put it in his arms, would have been killing him to leave,” he said.

“At the same breath he comes away and he sees how much his teammates appreciate him coming up here and making that sacrifice to be here.

“One thing I know for sure is when he runs on the field on Saturday he’ll be playing with everything he’s got for his wife and his little one to make them proud for the sacrifice of not being there.”

While a handful of different permutations were thrown around about the midfield combination before Thursday, Cheika said there wasn’t indecision in his mind with Reds centre Samu Kerevi convincing him through his training..

Samu Kerevi has earned a start. Photo: Getty ImagesKerevi’s selection is a shift away from Cheika’s usual preference to play with two genuine playmakers at 10 and 12, instead putting two big bodies in the centres.

“No confusion,” he said.

“I think we knew we’d have to prepare both scenarios with lealiifano.

“I suppose traditionally we’ve shaped up that way with the two traditional style playmakers but I’ve really been impressed by Kerevi.

“This year first chance I’ve really had to get stuck in with him and he’s sort of roamed around both teams last week that we ran and at the start of this week started to firm his place up in that formation."

Karmichael Hunt’s chances of a Test debut against England may yet be dashed by a niggling groin injury.

Karmichael Hunt has been unable to overcome a groin injury. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyHunt has struggled to shake off the injury, that kept him to restricted duties at training ahead of the opening Test, with the code-hopper missing out on the match-day 23.

Cheika said his recovery would be monitored closely as the series continues.

“He’s not recovered well, he’s run okay but unable to open right up,” he said.

“We’ll take a look at where that goes and make some assessments on whether he stays in the camp and tries to get through and improve that to the next game or gets further treatment.”

Cheika was pragmatic about the injury, with two more Tests against England and then the Rugby Championship still to play this year.

“There’s still a long way to go this season, still plenty of footy to play,” he said.

“He wants to be at his best so he can fulfil his potential, which is very important - you play in the Australian jersey you want to be able to play to your maximum and you don’t want to be letting anyone down because you know the whole country’s counting on you.”