Koroibete not expecting Spring Tour start

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Seven weeks have passed Marika Koroibete first dropping the idea that he would be joining the Wallabies Spring Tour, with the Fijian flyer officially ticking off his first day in camp on Friday.

Koroibete fronted the media ahead of the Wallabies’ Spring Tour departure, his first official public duty as a rugby union player.

The 24-year-old, who has been fast-tracked from the NRL straight into the Test fold, said he didn’t feel he was guaranteed a debut on the tour, despite being named in the official 32-man group for the six-week trip.

“I’m not expecting a game, just expecting to train as hard as I can, try to impress the coaching staff and go from there,” he said.

Marika Koroibete is in contention for the Spring Tour. Photo: Getty ImagesAs for whether his superb NRL season would transfer into the rugby arena, even Koroibete was unsure of the scale of his challenge, having last played rugby as a teen.

“I haven't played the game since high school, it's a really big challenge for me," he said.

“At this stage, all about for me just to learn as much as I can and we go from there.

“Where I grew up in Fiji, I always wanted to play Super Rugby.

“The opportunity's just come to play Super Rugby and prove some people wrong and train as hard as I can and try and play a good game around Super Rugby.”

Koroibete’s not entirely unfamiliar with his new teammates, having gone to the same school as Sefa Naivalu and said he was beginning to settle into the new environment.

Sefa Naivalu after his first training session with the Wallabies at Ballymore. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyWallabies attack coach Stephen Larkham, who announced he would be quitting his Brumbies post at the end of 2017 to join the Wallabies full-time, said Koroibete would need time to adjust.

If Koroibete were to make his Test debut on the tour, he would be just the third player since the turn of the century to achieve the feat, following Matt Giteau (2002) and Tatafu Polota-Nau (2005)

“I think the challenge for Marika first will be to fit into the structure that we play with,” Larkham said.

“He's certainly got that background of rugby union, it's not much different when you're playing on the wing in rugby league to rugby union.

“There'll be a few more patterns and slight changes from set piece that he'll probably have to get his head around but I think fit in with the guys first and then just getting that opportunity is all he needs.”

Stephen Larkham is Wallabies attack coach. Photo: Getty ImagesLarkham said the Wallabies were yet to nail down their best wing combination and as they bid to improve their attacking potency, Larkham said Koroibete’s skills could be handy.

“I think that's the reason why Cheik worked so hard to get him back to rugby,” he said.

“He's obviously very talented with ball in hand but he's a very tough player as well. I think that's what we'll see.

“I think that attack has improved [since the second Bledisloe and the combination on the field has stayed consistent, though we made a change in the last game with Bernard Foley and Quade Cooper.

“We're starting to find that combination and I think the more they get used to one another, the more opportunities we're going to have particularly out wide.”

The Wallabies play their first Test against Wales on November 6 (AEDT).