Cheika banks on Reds duo

2014-10-31 11:56
Michael Cheika (AFP)

London - Michael Cheika is banking on the return of two Reds stars to ensure he makes an impressive and successful start to his new post in charge of the Wallabies.

Cheika took over as head coach when Ewen McKenzie resigned in the wake of the Kurtley Beale text scandal and following the close defeat by the All Blacks.

He hopes to make an instant impact in the role with a new-look Australia facing the Barbarians at Twickenham on Saturday, a contest which kicks off their latest Northern Hemisphere crusade.

There are some new faces and changes amongst the tourists, but two familiar names, Reds team-mates Will Genia and Quade Cooper, will add plenty of experience, know-how and skill as the half-back pairing.

Cooper's return is certainly a huge boost having missed the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship with shoulder and hip injuries.

But Cheika is only interested in the present and future rather than the past as the Wallabies attempt to shrug off the off-the-field problems surrounding Beale's ban and fine to impress at the home of English rugby.

Beale may still join the Australia squad on their tour if he proves his fitness, despite the utility back being fined nearly 25,000 last week after an independent disciplinary panel found that he had breached the union's code of conduct by sending an offensive photograph to the then Wallabies' business manager Di Patston.

But Cheika is just concerned about the players he has at his present disposal doing their talking on the field.

He said: "Quade and Will know each other inside out. They both have 50-odd caps apiece and they are only in their mid-twenties so have long careers still ahead of them.

- good, fast confident start -

"They know each others games so well and their understanding will be crucial if the team is to hit the ground ground at Twickenham.

"We want to make a good, fast and confident start because games against the Baa-Baas are always played at a real pace with the kind of attacking rugby an Australian team should enjoy.

"Quade's had his injury problems but from what I've seen in training he's back to a very high level. Will is

"The guys have worked really hard all week on ensuring the team has a clear understanding of how we want to play.

"Now, they have to transfer this into the game on Saturday. You sense they're all looking forward to the opportunity against the Barbarians, and so far I've been impressed with the level of consistency they've brought to their work.

"This team contains a mix of players from our last game and also experienced players eager to push their way into the Test team. We're all looking forward to playing our first game for Australia on this tour.

"Winning is important, as it always is with the Wallabies, but so is the style of the performance.

"I've told all the guys this is a fresh start and every place is up for grabs between now and the World Cup in less than a year. Fortunately, we have plenty of fierce competition in all areas."

Experienced 33-year-old Matt Hodgson steps in to lead the team at openside flank. Fijian-born Brumbies winger Henry Speight will play his first game for Australia after a four-year eligibility process.

Scotland's Alastair Kellock, omitted from his country's Autumn international campaign, captain's the Baa-Baas but another Australian is determined to stick one over his old team-mates.

Centre Nick Cummins, ditched from the Wallabies' plans when he took up a lucrative two-year contract to play in Japan, aims to live up to his cult status as "The Honey Badger" - and dig a few holes in Australia defence.

Cummins had not given up hope of adding to his 15 Wallaby caps one day but the 27-year-old is proud to wear the black and white hooped jersey and insists: "I'm definitely keen to get back one day and play for the Wallabies but on Saturday my aim is to beat them with my Barbarian team-mates.

"I've never played against them before, so it will be another cool experience. I'll get to catch up with a few of the lads I used to play with too, and hopefully give them a bit of banter, and that'll be a real enjoyable time."

Read more on:    wallabies  |  michael cheika  |  rugby

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