Rugby Championship

Cheika offers Smith RWC hope

2015-07-02 12:00
Michael Cheika (Getty Images)

Melbourne - Veteran flank George Smith could still play a role for Australia at the Rugby World Cup despite being left out of a 40-man training squad, according to Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

Cheika included France-based backs Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell but overlooked Smith for the squad named on Thursday which will be trimmed down ahead of the Rugby Championship opener against South Africa on July 18.

The 111-Test Smith, who has signed for English Premiership club Wasps, played his last match for Australia against the touring British and Irish Lions in 2013 and will be 35 by the start of the World Cup in England later this year.

Cheika said he planned to keep in touch with Smith, one of Australia's greatest back-rowers.

"I've spoken with George and I've got a pretty clear role of how he might fit in here," Cheika told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.

"George has played a lot of eight as well over in Lyon this year and I think he is comfortable with the role that I might want him to fill if necessary and I'll speak to him further," he said.

"He is returning to England soon so we'll be keeping in touch about what role he may play further down the track."

Cheika has named Michael Hooper and David Pocock as his specialist openside flanks, with a raft of players competing for the other back row positions, including capped Wallabies Ben McCalman, Scott Higginbotham and Scott Fardy.

Midfielder Giteau, once Australia's first-choice flyhalf under former coach Robbie Deans, will join the training camp in the Sunshine Coast next week and bid to secure a first cap in four years.

His Toulon team-mate and former Australia winger Mitchell will hope for a first since 2012.

Both were eligible for selection after a rule change allowed seasoned overseas players with 60 international caps to be picked, where before, only players that put in a full domestic season in Australia could hope for a Wallabies call up.

Neither had been given any assurances, Cheika said.

"The two lads will be re-introduced to an environment where there's going to be a tough training programme, a new way of playing, they're going to have reacquaint themselves with players and some guys they haven't even met before," he said.

"So the earlier I get them here and to get them to have a look at the team and we can see them as well the better we will be off for making a decision for the longer term."

Read more on:    wallabies  |  michael cheika  |  george smith  |  rugby


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