Wessels plays down talk of Wallabies camp tensions

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Rebels coach Dave Wessels has played down talk of tension between clubs and the Wallabies over a preseason camp that left four players with injuries.

Captain Dane Haylett-Petty and lock Adam Coleman both picked up calf injuries in the January camp with Haylett-Petty shaking off the issue to play in round one and Coleman set to return this weekend.

The pair were two of four players, along with Waratahs’ Nick Phipps and the Brumbies’ David Pocock, who injured their calves in the camp.

Phipps is the only player yet to be named to return and his comeback date is still not clear.

Wessels said he had no issues with the January Wallabies camp despite the injuries.

“The reality is we're in a contact sport so people get injured from time to time,” he said.

“I think the Wallabies would be the first to admit that they can do things better in their environment as we would be in our environment.

Dayne Haylett-Petty in Melbourne. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“We're all trying to do things better. Did I have any formal dialogue that I was upset by the camp or whatever that's been suggested in the media? No I didn't do that.

“If I did I would just ring Michael myself, I wouldn't be talking about that in the media.”

Phipps also defended Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and the camp.

"It's [the camp] been painted like a real death march or something. Yeah, I got injured but the rest of the camp was really positive," Phipps said on the Fox Rugby POdcast..

"I know there is a lot of stuff out there saying how it was poorly run — it was quite well run. But I guess it is disappointing that a few of us pinged our calves. It's frustrating but injuries happen."

"Cheik actually had a really good presentation about what he expects from players in different groups, to pass the selection criteria and that maps out your season ahead, so you can sit there and start to tick your goals off and really plan ahead," Phipps said.

"I came back and day one we went straight into some noisy stuff [sprint sessions] and I pinged my calf towards the end of the session.

"I wasn't the only one, I had Poey (Pocock) and Dane (Haylett-Petty) with me and then I think Adsy (Coleman) did his."

Wessels said all franchises needed to ensure they were cooperating with the national setup.

“I think it's important that everybody recognises that part of our role as a provincial union is to support the Wallabies and we want to be a place that can create Wallabies and make those guys successful,” he said.

“We have to work closely with the Wallabies, as do all the franchises. Our ultimate goal is to make Australian rugby successful and the Wallabies are our no. 1 brand so I'd be very full of myself to sit here and say that's not important to us, it is important to us.”

That cooperation could even extend to where players are picked, with the Rebels factoring in the Wallabies' plans when it comes to the use of utility Reece Hodge. 

“From our point of view, it's probably fair on the player, if that's his role going to be at national team and we can accommodate that and it's useful for us as well, it makes sense to do it," Wessels said.

Reece Hodge says the Rebels don't want to let finals slip. Photo: Getty ImagesWe haven't had massive extensive discussions on it to be honest and I think Hodgey's unique personality makes it very possible for him to play a number of different positions.

“I think one of the things is that the Wallabies have made it quite clear to us that in the World Cup his role will be to be versatile, so he covers a number of different positions,” he said.

“I think it's fair that we give him that exposure. When you know Reece as a person, that doesn't really bother him.

“He quite enjoys that - the challenge of starting in different positions and things like that - but primarily we'd see him as a centre.

“If all else is well and injury-wise and things, we're able to accommodate that, first and foremost we'll be seeing Hodgey as a centre.”

The Rebels take on the Highlanders on Friday march 1 at AAMI Park, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.