How Quade and Will super-charged Koroibete ahead of World Cup debut

Rugby World Cup
by Iain Payten

He may have missed selection himself but the mind of Quade Cooper could still end up playing a significant role in the Wallabies bringing back Bill from the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete name-checked Cooper and Wallabies teammate Will Genia as key mentors in his incredible surge in form in the second half of the 2019 season.

Koroibete, who played for Fiji against Australia in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, will be on the opposite side of the equation in the Wallabies’ opening game in Sapporo in 13 days.

In what will be a tough battle, Australian fans will be hoping Koroibete can continue against his home country the purple patch of form he’s shown this winter, in which he’s averaged 90 metres running per Test and almost five defenders beaten, too.

As seen with his try against Samoa, Koroibete’s running power remains as dangerous as ever but three seasons after switching from rugby league, the 27-year-old’s impact and effective involvements in a game have grown considerably for Australia in 2019.

🚀 @mkoroibete powers through. #AUSvSAM

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Coach Michael Cheika said that has been a result of a major improvement in Koroibete's understanding of the 15-man game, although he wasn’t entirely sure why it had dramatically changed so much this year.

Koroibete explained his growth had come via a desire to be more effective, and with the help of two key rugby mentors in Melbourne.

"For me I just have a look at my game and think about out what I need to work on, and what I have been doing well, just keep doing it,” Koroibete said.

"It's probably one of the things I haven’t done in the last couple of years since switching to rugby. Sometimes I just was going around for the sake of it. Now I am just being effective.

“It started at the Rebels this year. I spoke to Quade Cooper and Willy Genia, they have been helping me a lot with that. 

"They give me some tips with that and I tried to bring it on later in the Super Rugby (season), and I know it works. Then coming to the Wallabies, and the way we start off the game we play this year, it’s blending so well. 

"I am just going there looking for opportunity and trying to get as many touches as I can.”

Effective has the mantra for Koroibete this year after a meeting with Cheika.

"He likes my work ethic but sometimes I work and not effectively. He told me to don’t waste my energy just working around and not getting the ball and being effective,” he said.

"That’s something I worked on. Trying to work effectively … and getting as much touches as I can."

It makes sense for Koroibete to get his hands on the Gilbert as often as possible, and he’s not waiting for it to happen either.

A feature of Koroibete’s game over the last few months has been his willingness to go hunting for the ball at the breakdown, and take some shock pick-and-go runs.

He scored a try in Perth with one, and another set off the now-famous Samu Kerevi run down the line that set up Nic White’s try too.

Asked how the forwards feel about his pick-and-go work, Koroibete laughed: "I have been stealing some of their tries. They tell me to go back on the wing.”

Cheika rates Koroibete as a big-game, big-stage player and “there is no bigger occasion than round one of the World Cup.”

Playing in rugby’s showpiece tournament was always the goal for Koroibete when he switched from league to union in 2016. Like most Fijian kids, he’d grown up idolising Rupeni Caucaunibuca and still has memories of his insane performance against Scotland in the 2003 Rugby World Cup at the SFS.

"As a village boy growing up in Fiji, I definitely looked up to him. He was a great finisher and his speed, and his ability to step at full speed, he was just unreal. He was so quick as well,” he said.

Koroibete said it will, naturally, feel a little strange to take on Fiji at the World Cup in game one, given the last time he was at a World Cup he was playing for Fiji alongside Semi Radradra and Petero Civoniceva - and sporting a mr T haircut - in 2013.

"One thing is I love playing in the big game. I went with Fiji to the Rugby League World Cup and that’s not as big as the Rugby World Cup,”  he said.

"It was something when I switched to rugby that I wanted to go to. I just set my targets to get my name picked for the Rugby World Cup and it’s something I am looking forward to. The boys have said it’s an unreal occasion and it’s a very good occasion to show the world who you are and compete with the best wingers in the world.”


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"He is the sort of player he is hard to stop. Just get in front of them before they get the ball,” Koroibete said.

"Don’t give them five metres. Those sort of players. Just get in front of them. Don’t give them space to come."