This weekend’s Bledisloe Test could be a defining moment in Rob Simmons’ career and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has challenged him to make it a positive one.
Cheika has shown faith in Simmons when his own club team has had little, the 72-Test lock cut loose by Queensland despite having a national contract.
Though he is believed to have found a Super Rugby home in the Waratahs for next season, Cheika said Saturday’s match would be a pivotal junction for the 28-year-old Queenslander.
Simmons missed the cut in Cheika's June Series, before an injury ruled him out of the possibility of Test involvement in that mid-year series, and Cheika said Simmons could be one of the world's best if he brought 'aggression and impact' consistently.
Now he has given his long-time Test player the chance to show that.
“It’s an opportunity for Simmons to put his foot down now,” he said.
“He’s having a change in his own career now and a new step forward for him and his Super Rugby career and I think it’s time he puts a marker down for his international career as well in dominating that lock position.
“Saturday is the day to show that. He knows that as well.
“It’s not anything I wouldn’t say to him directly either.
“Saturday is the day for him to show up and say: ‘yeah, this is what I can do’.”
Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman had appeared to be the long-term first choice lock pairing for the Wallabies and though Arnold seemingly did nothing fatally wrong in Sydney, Cheika said Simmons could add something different in the set piece.
“It was more to do with the configuration of the locks together, giving Adam a little bit more option in the lineout,” he said.
“We didn’t get a lot of lineouts last week but we know they’re a very good defensive lineout team.
“They’ll try and put pressure on us now they’ve seen a game.
“They’ll try and put a bit more pressure there and Rob’s good in the lineout.”
Simmons admitted even he was surprised at his starting selection, after a tumultuous year, where he was dropped from the 23 altogether by Queensland at times.
Cheika left the second rower out of his matchday squads twice in 2016, before Simmons came back into the frame on Spring Tour with Coleman injured.
“There was a little bit of shock, considering the year it's been but to hear my name read out, it was a bit of a surprise and I was pretty excited to get the chance to go out there and start the game,” Simmons said.
“I just went out there last week and tried to do anything I could for the team, get go forward, get in and make tackles and things like that.
“I suppose the second half on the scoreboard was better than the first half so it all maybe just showed up and it was Cheik's decision.”
Though Simmons would not confirm whether NSW would be his destination in 2018, he did say he had a place in Australian rugby, something that had been high on his priority list given his national aspirations.
“The Waratahs are in the frame but we can't say anything yet,” he said.
“That (national representation) was always the reason for wanting to stay around.
“I love playing for my country and the ability to do that - it's a lot harder to do when you move overseas.”
The Wallabies flew to Dunedin on Thursday night, ahead of Saturday’s Test.
Australia takes on New Zealand on Saturday in Dunedin, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS.