Cheika's early expectations made Wallabies criteria clear

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

A simple blueprint from Michael Cheika kept Wallabies hopefuls in the loop when it came to squad selection, prop Toby Smith says.

Smith, one of five Melbourne Rebels in the squad despite the side having just one win this season, said Cheika had visited all the franchises and spelled out

The result has been a squad heavily picked on form, looking towards a new generation of Wallabies player, with nine uncapped players in the team.

“I guess that's a lot of what Cheik has spoken about,” he said.

“I know he went around to all the franchises and spoke about the process and how he will select squads and around the data they collect and look at.

“So, basically a lot of the analysis stuff - if you're doing the work, it's going to get noticed and you're going to get an opportunity. So, it's good to see that's happening.”

One of those players whose form was rewarded is Reds backrower Scott HIgginbotham, a former Rebels teammate of Smith’s, and a player he was excited to reunite with in camp.

“I was stoked for Higgers,” he said.

“He's back involved and in the camp and I've played against him and seen him play some really good rugby this season, so it's great to have him back involved that's for sure.”

The Wallabies front row has been ahead of the curve in the transition stakes, with Allan Alaalatoa and Tom Robertson into their second seasons as Wallabies,.

With Scott Sio injured for the first Test, the competition for front row spots is tight, a dynamic of which Smith is acutely aware.

“It's awesome (to see),” he said.

“It's something I know Mario's (Wallabies scrum coach Mario Ledesma) very passionate about the scrum and he works really hard with the front rowers and has worked to build the depth and that's definitely showing.

Front row veteran Sekope Kepu echoed Smith’s thoughts on the young duo.

“They're comfortable now and I'm sure that they'll be pushing for those spots and the competition's always good,” he said.

“It's healthy for the team - we've just got to keep each other honest and keep pushing each other.

“They've come together quite nicely just this morning.

“It's going to be good for the group and that experience you can never buy so they've got a year under their belt and I'm sure they're filling with confidence.”

The Wallabies face off against Fiji on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS. Buy tickets here.