Every eligible European Wallabies player will be keen to come home for the Rugby Championship, and a slice of trans-Tasman revenge, but how effective can they be?
Giteau battled injury after the Rugby World Cup, with a three-month layoff after groin surgery, but has finally been able to string some games together at the back end of the French season. Giteau only returned for two matches before an adductor strain curtailed his season once more. The experienced playmaker is now back on track having just played in the Top 14 final against Dan Carter’s Racing Metro. Gits is sure to enjoy a few weeks off before receiving the call from Cheik for the internationals kicking off in August. Australia missed his accurate in-play kicking in the England series and you’d be hard pressed to overlook him for the Rugby Championship, despite the form of Matt Toomua.
You wouldn’t expect anything less than a consistent season from Ashley-Cooper in his first year with Bordeaux Beagles. A hat-trick against Oyonnax in March was the highlight for the man they call Swoop, who dashed over for two tries in four minutes. A dislocated shoulder ended Ashley-Cooper’s European season in late May, but was only expected to miss three weeks. Another key player who will be available for the upcoming Wallabies Tests. His availability makes for an intriguing battle at the selection table, with Dane Haylett-Petty and Rob Horne.
Everything was going swimmingly for Drew Mitchell at the start of the year as he starred for Toulon on numerous occasions as well as breaking Guiness World Records on the side. A double against Grenoble in March was an example of how much of a game-breaker he can be in full flight. Groin surgery ended his season prematurely in May, ruling him out for three months. The injury will make him unavailable for the opening Bledisloe Test on August 20, but he could be on track for the remainder of the Rugby Championship if he can get back to full fitness.
Another European Wallaby whose season has been hampered by injury. Genia moved to France following the Rugby World Cup to join Stade Francais but has played a match since January 4. His ongoing knee issue led to Genia having minor surgery in late January that effectively ruled him out for the remainder of the European season. There was talk that he could feature in the June Test series but needed more time to recover. Will be amongst the Wallabies squad come August. His return could be the most crucial of all, given Australia’s lack of options in the scrumhalf position.
A Test tally of just 59 caps means he won’t be eligible for the Wallabies unless he signs with an Australian franchise for 2017 but Cooper could certainly be in Test contention in the Rugby Championship. An unsuccessful stint with the Australian Sevens squad mixed with an up and down season with Toulon has led to reports that Cooper is looking for a return to Australia with the Reds and Rebels in a race to secure the classy flyhalf. If a Super Rugby franchise is able to secure Cooper’s services for the 2017 season onwards, he’ll be able to slot straight into Cheika’s Wallabies squad.