28 October, 2016, 12:00 am
SYDNEY – Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has issued a typically forthright response to criticism of his selection of NRL convert Marika Koroibete.
The Fiji-born former Storm winger was selected in Cheika’s 32-man squad to tour the northern hemisphere despite being yet to play the 15-man game in Australia.
His selection ahead of the likes of Force star Luke Morahan has led some critics to suggest Cheika was cheapening the Wallabies jersey.
Cheika — in a sling after surgery to an arm injured in training — got his chance to respond in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “Any suggestions of cheapening the jersey are well off the mark,” Cheika said.
“He’ll play if he’s earned it.
“There’ll always be that (criticism) but no-one’s getting a jersey for free and no-one ever will.
“He’s a talent who can contribute for us and make an impact further down the road, definitely.
“It’ll give me an opportunity to coach him a little bit first so I can have a look at him before he goes back and plays Super Rugby.
“That’s a perfectly logical thing to do.”
Koroibete played rugby growing up in Fiji and, after talks with the flyer, Cheika was confident he retained significant game awareness despite his time away in the NRL.
The feisty coach batted back a suggestion of double standards after Cheika complained his cartoon clown portrayal in the New Zealand Herald was demeaning to the Wallabies jersey.
“I think that’s a pretty ridiculous parallel to try and draw,” Cheika said.
“I don’t think there’s any link at all.
“I can understand if you want to be critical about the selection. The fact of the matter is I’m not cheapening the jersey because he hasn’t got one yet.
“I’ll have a look at him in training and he’s obviously a fine player and he has a profile of out and out speed. He’s a line breaker and a guy that’s got a bit of X-factor, a strong defender and he’s got runs on the board — albeit in another code — but he’s grown up playing rugby, it’s not like he doesn’t know the game.
“I’m certainly not going to be giving him a jersey, just for the sake of it.”