Wallabies scrumhalf Will Genia says the man who has New Zealand’s props “passing like halfbacks”, will play a crucial role in helping get the Bledisloe Cup back.
Genia, who hasn’t played in six months because of an ongoing knee injury has been well-acquainted with newly appointed national skills coach Mick Byrne, seeking him out while in France.
The 28-year-old had phone sessions with the former All Blacks coach in Europe but hadn’t actually come face-to-face with Byrne until joining Wallabies training this week.
“After I had my surgery, I got some advice from around things I could do around kicking and passing, so I’ve known him for a while now actually and he’s been very good to me,” he said.
“He’s given me drills to work on with my pass and kicking and a lot of that was just over the phone, speaking to him.
“To actually meet him has been really great.”
The halfback said Byrne brought his focus back to the most basic parts of the game, something from which the Wallabies would benefit.
“He’s putting emphasis on the things you tend to forget,” he said.
“It’s the little elements - passing, kicking, catching that will make a difference when you’re fatigued in games.
“It’ll make a huge difference, it’s something that’ll be over more long-term.
“His role isn’t just to work with the Wallabies but the provinces and all the other set ups around Australian rugby.”
In a season where Australia’s Super Rugby skills have been upstaged by New Zealand, with the Kiwis’ offloading especially damaging, Genia said Byrne could bring the gap closer.
“The New Zealand sides they’ve got props passing like halfbacks and it’s a direct result of the focus on skills,” he said.
“That transfers into the All Blacks - silky, smooth skills in Test rugby and being that split second quicker and getting passes out in front is the difference between seven points and none.”
Genia said Byrne had already shown his influence in his brief time with the Wallabies.
“His focus right away here has been a bit of a shift and it’s made a difference and hopefully it’s evident in the way we perform,” he said.
“It’s up to the players as individuals how much they take from it and how much they work on the skills in terms of the technical side of it.”
Genia will battle it out with Waratahs number nine Nick Phipps for the starting halfback and, four months after knee surgery, said he was feeling fully refreshed.
The former Reds halfback has struggled with the injury since 2013 and two surgeries in the past year has finally renewed his faith in his body.
“I’d had issues with it since 2013, from the first (British and Irish) Lions Test when I did something to the cartilage, it finally got to a point where it popped and I needed surgery before the World cup.
“Then I did it again in the same way in the World Cup and then moved straight to Paris and then played for a bit but then couldn't play.
“To have the opportunity to rest and so I can feel comfortable with it mentally has been good.
To not have played for so long, makes me really hungry to play and get your hands and play some footy.”