Cheika yet to settle on ideal lock pairing

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika admits he hasn’t settled on his ideal lock combination, after naming a fifth different starting duo in as many Tests.

Adam Coleman and Kane Douglas will start in the second row this weekend, with regular starter Rob Simmons dropped for the second time this year and Cheika said they were still working out the right pairing.

“It’s not that apparent (the changing) because Douglas was injured in June so he didn’t play there,” he said.

“We’re trying to find that combination obviously, I would be lying if we said we weren’t.

“That’s up to players to stand up and say, ‘Yeah this is the position I have and I want to keep it’. “

Simmons will be playing for Queensland Country in the NRC this weekend and Cheika said the Reds lock had specific areas for improvement before he would be considered for a return.

“He’s clear on the criteria we’ve spoken about, now it’s someone else’s opportunity and his opportunity won’t come until he gets to play a bit of footy,” he said.

“I think he’ll have an opportunity at NRC this week, while his teammates here are getting a run out and they’ll show what they got. “

Adam Coleman has earned his first Test start. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyCheika said he had full confidence in rookie Coleman in his first Test start, after coming off the bench in the final Test of the June Series.

“Yes it’s a big deal for him, he’s coming up against some pretty handy players but I back him he’s a very good young player and this will be the start of something for him,” he said.

“It’ll also be a chance for him to make a name for himself. He’s done well in Super Rugby  this year and there’s a step up. I can’t tell you how much he’s looking forward to it.”

The backline has been the focus of much of the discussion on Thursday, most notably the selection of Quade Cooper at 10, a move that shifts Bernard Foley to inside centre.

Cheika said Foley would likely retain the goal kicking duties despite the shift, in the second Test.

Samu Kerevi has also earned his third Test start, this time at outside centre, handing Tevita Kuridrani a rare relegation to the bench.

Cheika said it was the workload rather than any Test failure that prompted him to leave Kerevi out of the final June Test.

“I wanted to not burn him in his foray into Test rugby, [play] three in a row and then go back to super rugby,” he said.

“I thought he did well for us in June and then Tevita as the incumbent got a go in game one and I think now is an opportunity for Samu to put a stamp on the 13 jersey and try and own it because the opportunity is there.”

Neither Ben McCalman nor Drew Mitchell were considered for the match, not travelling with the team.

A scapula injury that hampered the back end of McCalman’s Super Rugby season has flared up again but Cheika said he didn’t expect it to keep him out of action for much longer.

Cheika said Mitchell’s match fitness was still yet to be a satisfactory standard.

“I don’t think he had the match fitness to be a part of the squad, he’s back running and he’s back fit but to play against these opponents he needs to be at full fitness so he’s doing some hard work back home and we’ll look at his availability for the test after this one,” Cheika said.