Cheika open to tour additions

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is open to the idea of bringing some NRC stars onto the Spring Tour.

Cheika has already spoken about bringing Queensland Country prop Taniela Tupou on after his NRC campaign is over, and said he hadn’t ruled out adding some more faces to that.

The Wallabies have just two development players on their tour this year, compared to four last year, with no midweek game on the four-Test trip.

“We’ve been keeping a keen eye on what happens in the NRC as well because there's a few players back there that (could come across),” he said.

“Taniela will be coming afterwards and then if a couple of players shine in the finals, you might have one or two in the squad, you never know.”

Duncan Paiaaua is in line to take the reins at 10 for the wallabies this weekend. Photo: WalmsleyTupou’s Country captain Duncan Paia’aua was one of three development players heading into the Barbarians game and was a somewhat surprising Tour omission after playing 10 in that game, while Canberra’s Tom Banks was also just short of a Spring Tour berth.

“Over the last couple of years, maybe, we've genuinely gone on a campaign to try and improve the depth of the team in all positions,” he said.

“(We’ve) got some plans even for players behind that around the depth we need to build there,” he said.

“If we can find a few more gems in this tour - we've got something to build on with Matt Philip after today and there's some players that are in the squad that haven't played for Australia that I really like the look of.

“When those other guys come back next year we can start to see genuine depth in competition, our Super Rugby teams can have that depth as well and that will make us better in the long run.”

Saturday’s Japan game gave some players a chance to prove their starting wares, with Samu Kerevi dominating at 12 in a rare 80-minute stint, while Curtis Rona pleased Cheika in a new role at fullback.

Samu Kerevi crashes through a tackle. Photo: Getty ImagesKerevi has battled injuries this season and Tevita Kuridrani has taken a stranglehold over the starting 13 position, while the queue at 12 gets longer each week, with Kurtley Beale at its head.

"Obviously Kerevi who hasn't been in the mix...he did really well,” Cheika said.

“I thought Curtis Rona was good when he came on, he had a lot of good touches.

"He’s never played fullback before, we prepped him this week when we decided to go the six-two (bench) and he handled it very well.

“(Halfback Nick) Phipps I thought was good - he struggled a little bit because he hasn't had as much game time, so as the back half of the game wore on he did some nice little plays.”

The Wallabies travel to Cardiff on Sunday ahead of their next Test against Wales.