Southern Hemisphere must fight for slice of rugby power

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The balance of rugby power lies in the north and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says the Southern Hemisphere nations must fight to keep their players and grow their influence.

Reports have already begun to circulate around some of the Wallabies who are off contract this year, with rookie Rory Arnold and outside centre Tevita Kuridrani most recently linked to French clubs Toulon and Montpellier.

“For us to keep our players, we’ve got to be doing an unbelievable job on the ground and trying to have the best prep we possibly can because they’re getting offered more than we’re able to offer them in dollars,”- Michael Cheika

“We’ve got to make sure that playing, not just for Australia but for your Super Rugby team, is something that’s going to make you a better player, a better person and then the opportunity to play for Australia when that comes around is something that players really want and at the end of the day, that’s the real world issue for us.

“I think you can see by the amount of players that are playing their rugby over here in Europe exactly how it’s affecting us and it leads to what we’ve done this year, is we’ve gone on a clear plan to try and grow the number of players that are competing for spots in the Australian team because we have blooded so many new players and we’ve done it on purpose.”

Michael Cheika doesn't like the term 'resting'. Photo: Getty ImagesAustralia is not the only country that has been hit by a spate of European defections and Cheika said Southern Hemisphere delegates would need to fight hard to change the dynamic in upcoming World Rugby talks in London.

“It doesn’t matter who’s ranked number one, whether it’s from the south as it has been for a long time, it’s still the north who are driving the game because they have the economy,” he said.

“That’s the brutal truth of it, I don’t think I’m saying anything out of order there.

“We’ve just got to keep fighting in our corner, the guys in the Southern Hemisphere and doing the best we can to stay in the game because it’s not just us, South Africa have been ripped apart by departures and it’s happening to New Zealand too.

“It really is, it’s a battle there and I’m sure our management or our delegates in that area are fighting the good fight for the Southern Hemisphere.”

Wallabies backrower Sean McMahon, who is one of the Wallabies coming to the end of his latest deal in 2017, said Europe was not something he had considered, despite seeing a handful of teammates make the move.

“I just play footy, I have someone who deals with that and if it comes my way, it comes my way. I just play footy, that’s what I love doing and that’s what I’ll keep doing,” he said.

McMahon said the ins and outs of 2016, with the Europe-based players especially, hadn’t been a disruption for the side, with the returning players slotting in easily.

“We’ve played with Will quite a lot and players like Drew and Matt that come in. We build ourselves around our identity and they just slot right back in really and we just get on with everyday, getting out on the field every day at training.

“Even if it does take a bit, it takes one session before you’re reading each other again so it’s not really too big of an issue.” - Sean McMahon

The 22-year-old credited Cheika for much of his own personal development through his rugby career.

“On the field he is tough and he makes you push yourself to get the best out of yourself and that's all you can ask from a coach,” he said.

“Personally, it’s helped me and continued to build me as a person and even my character, because we do a lot of work on our identity piece and coming together as a group.

“I reckon that’s what makes him a tough coach, he does have a tough mentality and all that but everyone loves it and buys into it, it just helps build everyone.”

Australia takes on England at Twickenham on Saturday, kicking off a 1:30am AEDT, LIVE on SBS and beIN Sport (Foxtel Channel 515)