Coach Michael Cheika looks on during a Wallabies training session.
Coach Michael Cheika looks on during a Wallabies training session. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Cheika stands by controversial Koroibete call-up

RUGBY UNION: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has launched a staunch defence of his decision to hand Marika Koroibete a place on the European tour before he has played a Super Rugby game.

The former Melbourne Storm winger was one of three debutants named by Cheika for internationals against Wales, Scotland, Ireland, England and France, as well as one midweek clash against the France Barbarians.

There was plenty of negative reaction to the selection of the Fijian-born Koroibete, who will play for the Rebels next season, but Cheika said he was not devaluing the Australian jersey.

"No one's getting a jersey for free - no one has and no one ever will," he told reporters yesterday.

"I'll look at him at training. He's obviously a fine player and a profile of out-and-out speed, a linebreaker, a guy who's got a bit of X-factor.

"He's got runs on the board - yes, in another code, but he's grown up playing rugby. It's not like he doesn't know the game.

"(But) he's not going to be jettisoned in there and start from game one. There's a definite plan in what we're doing."

Cheika said the clash with the Barbarians, classed as a non-cap game, would be the perfect chance to run his eye over Koroibete.

"I've had a few discussions with him and met with him a couple of times about game knowledge," he said.

"He's still very, very well aware of what goes on in rugby and understands the dynamics of the game."

The Wallabies fly out tomorrow for the Spring Tour.

The first game will be against Wales in Cardiff on November 6.



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