Wallaby debuts may keep rising stars in Australia

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The influx of new Wallabies this season might just tempt more young Aussies to stay home, coach Michael Cheika says.

While the 10 debuts handed out this season haven’t been without merit, Cheika said, that Test rugby seems more accessible might be a blessing in disguise as Australia watches an increasing number of players opt to go overseas.

“I didn't think about it like that, but yes, I suppose (it would),” he said.

“I wouldn't play with Wallaby caps for that but at the same time there's a lot of young players in Australia now who will be seeing a change and will be saying, 'that could be me'.

Tom Robertson looms as a versatile front rower. Photo: Getty Images“I don't think Tom Robertson imagined he's going to be playing in front of James Slipper at the start of this season.

“I've got to make sure those selections are made, not just willy nilly because it's very valuable - there's a lot of players that never played for Australia who would die to get a cap - so, it's got to be done with the player earning the right.”

While they are clearly in a stage of transition, with just nine players from last year’s Rugby World Cup final lining up in Saturday’s Twickenham clash with Argentina, Cheika said that was no excuse for the 2-6 hole they find themselves in after eight 2016 Tests.

“I've always been in that mindset of I believe in what I do and with the other coaches as well .i really believe this is the way to go and I don't know if it's guts or not but it's the right thing to do in regards to that,” he said.

“I still believe we should be winning games.

“The three games against England in Sydney, the game against South Africa in South Africa, I felt that they were games we should've won even with a changing team.

“I'm not looking to say that that's any excuse for losing games.”

James Slipper has missed out on a spot this weekend. Photo: Getty ImagesAustralia’s most-capped prop Slipper has become a casualty of Australia's willingness to back youth, with Allan Alaalatoa and Tom Robertson preferred to the 82-test veteran on the bench.

That wasn’t an easy choice for Cheika but it was one that follows similarly surprising calls this season, with veterans Scott Fardy and Rob Simmons also losing their spots.

“I think in discussing with James,  he needs to improve certain parts of his game that I feel aren’t up to the standard he has,” he said.

“He has a high standard - he's one of our most-capped players and I want him to go beyond those standards that he set himself in the past.”

Cheika said Robertson would be able to switch to either side of the scrum if needed.

The Wallabies take on Argentina on Sunday at 5:30am (AEDT) at Twickenham. Tickets at http;//www.ticketmaster.co.uk