Wallabies newcomer Kyle Godwin has thrown his support behind embattled Australian coach Michael Cheika following his selection in the 32-man spring touring party which leaves for England on Friday.
Godwin joins former Melbourne Storm winger Marika Koroibete and NSW Country teammate Tolu Latu as potential debutants selected by Cheika, three days after the Wallabies’ 37-10 Bledisloe Cup loss was overshadowed by the coach’s post-match rant at the New Zealand media.
Cheika’s comments were aimed at a New Zealand newspaper after it published a cartoon of him dressed as a clown, before All Blacks coach Steve Hansen weighed in by telling his counterpart to “stop whining”.
Hansen has since suggested he and Cheika have a beer together to sort out their “frosty” relationship.
Godwin said he was unaware of the clown cartoon when it was originally published, as he was focused on the weekend’s National Rugby Championships grand final won by Perth Spirit.
But the inside centre, who will play for the Brumbies in next year’s Super Rugby competition after five seasons with the Western Force, expected Cheika and the Wallabies to bounce back in Europe.
“I’ve had a couple of tours with ‘Cheik’, he’s an unbelievable coach and the boys have all got massive respect for him and I do as well,” Godwin said.
“He’s got the boys together. To learn off him and obviously play for him, I’m thoroughly looking forward to that.
“They [the Wallabies] have had a bit of a tough year but they’re doing a great job. They’re really striving to have a successful grand slam and hopefully we can have the wins that we need on the tour.”
Wallabies coach unimpressed: The New Zealand Herald sports back page of Michael Cheika as a clown. Photo: Supplied
Godwin is yet to speak with Cheika following his selection in the touring party, informed instead via email on Monday night in a message that outlined the “big challenge” the squad was facing.
The goal is a second grand slam against the four home nations, despite Australia’s recent record of just three wins in its past 11 games dating back to last year’s World Cup final loss to New Zealand.
Only once has Australia beaten England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales on a spring tour, back in 1984, and Godwin said repeating that feat was the target.
“We’re certainly telling that to ourselves and the team,” the 24-year-old said.
“It’s a massive challenge but we’re looking forward to that challenge and hopefully we can achieve it.”
Godwin travelled to Europe with the Wallabies two years ago, but didn’t earn his debut Test cap.
Next month he’ll be aiming to force his way into the No.12 jersey, or at the very least claim a spot on the bench.
Bernard Foley and Reece Hodge have played at inside centre in recent times, but it’s a position that has caused Cheika much chagrin in 2016.
Injuries have sidelined Matt Giteau and Matt Toomua, while Christian Lealiifano is undergoing treatment for leukaemia.
Centre Samu Kerevi was injured in Saturday’s loss to the All Blacks and will miss the tour to have ankle surgery.
The Wallabies’ first assignment next month is against Wales at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, a side that will include England-based players George North and Jamie Roberts.
Welshmen Ross Moriarty, Tomas Francis and Luke Charteris are therefore also available for selection, but Taulupe Faletau is injured and will miss the Wallabies game.
English Premiership rules would normally prevent players from contesting internationals at this time of year, given they fall outside of the World Rugby Test window, but premiership clubs have agreed to a “one-off” policy change.
“This comes as we continue deliberations on a new post-2019 global season structure to find an appropriate balance between club and international rugby,” a Premiership rugby spokesman said.
“We are showing flexibility to help a number of unions who have decided to play on this particular weekend but we must stress this is a one-off variation to the allowed window while discussions continue.”
Wallabies 32-man squad: Allan Alaalatoa (5 Tests), Rory Arnold (6 Tests), Adam Coleman (7 Tests), Quade Cooper (64 Tests), Kane Douglas (28 Tests), Scott Fardy (37 Tests), Israel Folau (48 Tests), Bernard Foley (37 Tests), Nick Frisby (3 Tests), Will Genia (72 Tests), Kyle Godwin*, James Hanson (12 Tests), Dane Haylett-Petty (10 Tests), Reece Hodge (6 Tests), Michael Hooper (61 Tests), Sekope Kepu (73 Tests), Marika Koroibete*, Tevita Kuridrani (40 Tests), Tolu Latu*, Sean McMahon (12 Tests), Stephen Moore (c) (112 Tests), Dean Mumm (53 Tests), Sefanaia Naivalu (2 Tests), Nick Phipps (48 Tests), David Pocock (61 Tests), Tom Robertson (4 Tests), Rob Simmons (66 Tests), Scott Sio (25 Tests), Will Skelton (16 Tests), Henry Speight (6 Tests), James Slipper (82 Tests), Lopeti Timani (3 Tests).
*denotes uncapped player
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