28 March, 2018, 12:00 am
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has been pleasantly surprised by the fighting spirit shown by Australia’s Super Rugby teams, saying the emergence of talented youngsters has multiplied his options ahead of the country’s June Tests against Ireland.
The ACT Brumbies, Queensland Reds, Melbourne Rebels and New South Wales Waratahs have 11 victories between them after five rounds of this year’s championship, nearly double the tally at the same stage last year.
In the 2017 season, the five Australian Super Rugby teams, including the now defunct Western Force, mustered six wins after the first five rounds.
“I think they’ve all been showing different qualities of their own and a fair bit of resilience in some of their battles,” Cheika was quoted as saying by the Australian Associated Press.
“Teams have already shown comebacks from difficult situations or overcoming some logistical battles, like we’ve seen the Reds do over this last little bit.”
The Reds turned in a strong defensive display to beat Argentina’s Jaguares 18-7 in Buenos Aires before claiming a bonus point in their 25-19 defeat by the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.
Australia play Six Nations champions Ireland in a three-test series in June and Cheika is excited by the emergence of fresh talent as well as the players’ physical condition.
“We’re getting some wins on the board and I think some of the players are standing up and putting their name up there,” he added. “From a selection point of view, (they) are probably not the traditional ones we’ve seen before.”
Reds back rower Caleb Timu and teammate Chris Feauai-Sautia have caught Cheika’s eye, while the progress shown by Rebels back Jack Maddocks and Reds forwards Liam Wright and Taniela Tupou have given him even more reason to be optimistic.
“I’m keeping a list turning around, of what we see as maybe that top 45 and there’s a few players started to move in there that have not been in our reckoning before,” he said.
The Wallabies open their campaign against the Irish in Brisbane on June 9, before games in Melbourne and Sydney on June 16 and 23 respectively.
Meanwhile, the Wallabies mentor have raked in former Fijian international Simon Raiwalui as forwards coach.