Tui may have future in backrow, says Cheika

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies are still hunting for the perfect mix in their backrow and Lukhan Tui has emerged as a surprise candidate to be added to the list.

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika said Tui had been running in the blindside spot at times in training, after returning to the Test squad this week.

Ned Hanigan has started at No. 6 in every Wallabies Test this year, and Cheika was full of praise for the Waratahs forward, but hinted there could be some change coming.

“I think it's been a good balance what we've had there with Hanigan, more set piece style, orientated and then both Sean (McMahon) and Michael (Hooper), Sean playing as a bit of that hybrid player and Michael on the openside,” he said.

"Ned's gone great - I want to make sure I say that, he's come from not playing - he wasn't even in the starting team for Super Rugby at the start of the year, he's played [seven] Tests, there in a row.

“He's come from nowhere and I've really got high respect for that guy because I think at first he didn't even know, he had no idea what he was doing in the team.

“I don't think he even realised it in June, seriously, he was wondering why he was here. He stayed in it and I know it's been a big effort for him.”

Cheika said Adam Korczyk, who is yet to feature in the Test side despite being called into The Rugby Championship squad, was a contender for a shot at the blindside, along with Tui.

“I think Korczyk is coming along very nicely and we may also look at even Lukhan Tui having a bit of a run there,” he said.

“He's been practising a bit there, if he makes it on the tour (he could play there). He's going to play NRC I think on Sunday and then if he makes it on the tour, we might have a look at that.”

McMahon was let off the leash late in the piece against the Pumas, including a stellar run in the 78th minute that put Nick Phipps over.

“It's been getting better as we get a bit of consistency playing with each other,” McMahon said.

“Hoops is doing what he always does, (being) a hyper bunny, it's then just up to me and Ned to find what we're doing as well.

“The way we're doing it at the moment I get a little bit more freedom, trying to find a few more ball carries but I think it's been working well over the past couple of games and we've just got to keep working towards getting better and better every week."

Hooper said he was pleased to see McMahon back to some of his best form, after an injury-riddled season.

“Off the back of not playing much Super Rugby - the bloke down in Dunedin was amazing," Hooper said

“He got hurt noticeably last week and then delivers that performance tonight." - Michael Hooper.

“I'm enjoying playing with the guys, I'm enjoying what our team can put out when we start doing the stuff that we talk about doing. ”

Cheika wasn’t satisfied with an opening-half breakdown effort that let the Pumas, particularly No. 8 Tomas Lezana, dominate in tight.

“We got a couple of penalties against us for holding on and we had the opportunity to clean the guy out but we went to the side or we tried to grab instead of hit with the shoulder and the arms and take the guy out of the play,” he said.

“They showed they would try and do that by picking the team they picked. The second half we quickly sorted that out and when you sort that out the game can flow really nicely.”

The Wallabies players head back to their states on Sunday before reconvening next Saturday to head to Bloemfontein for the away clash with South Africa.