Cheika looking for more fullback depth

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has more concern over his fullback depth than that at flyhalf, after picking his Spring Tour squad

Cheika surprised observers by including Rebels rookie Jack Maddocks as a development player in his squad announced on Sunday, after his first full season of Super Rugby.

Maddocks pipped Burmbies fullback Tom Banks, who was a standout for the Barbarians against the Wallabies on Saturday.

Cheika has been impressed with Maddocks since seeing him play in the Australia U20s and with Dane Haylett-Petty and Israel Folau out of the squad, the specialist fullback options are few and far between.

Karmichael Hunt would appear the first-choice for a starting role, but he has mainly played 12 for the Wallabies and again stood out in the front line against the Barbarians.

“We’ve got Dane (Haylett-Petty) who's out and Israel (Folau) who's not coming I wanted to start getting another genuine fullback,” Cheika said.

“He's got that little bit of X factor. Everyone else in that backline, we've been working with this year and I feel like I wanted to continue that.

"Banks trained with us and is definitely in calculations -  he had a fine game (for the Barbarians) and will look forward to Super Rugby next year."

Banks will also have the chance to play NRC finals with the Canberra Vikings, Cheika keen to let players feature in those finals series, also leaving Taniela Tupou with Queensland Country until their campaign ends.

Maddocks selection is reward for an impressive rise, given he was contemplating pursuing a cricket career over rugby just two years ago.

Cheika again overlooked Quade Cooper - and his Reds teammate Duncan Paia’aua who steered the Wallabies against the Barbarians - in his Spring Tour squad.

The Wallabies mentor sees Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale and Reece Hodge as genuine 10 options in there, and listed Kyle Godwin as one unlucky to miss out.Reece Hodge was cool under pressure in Brisbane. Photo: Getty ImagesWhile it wasn’t exactly a shock that Cheika omitted Cooper after leaving him out of the Rugby Championship squad, it does leave the 29-year-old in somewhat of a Wallabies limbo, with each omission making it more likely that his Test career is over.

“I've been happy with the coverage we've had all throughout the season so far, having just those three guys, then we've got Billy Meakes who's a 12 now, we can put Billy there and also Karmichael as a 12,” he said.

“A guy like Kyle Godwin would be the one who has been there before who missed out but we've got a heap of coverage there.

“(It was) More the fact now with Izzy not there, I want to have that little bit of something different.”

Interestingly. Cheika said he would be sounding the Reds out about their plan for Paia’aua moving foward.

Maddocks and Queensland backrower Liam Wright are the two development players in the squad and while they’re unlikely to play Cheika said if the need arose, he would not be concerned about calling them up.