Battling Simmons gets a rocket from Cheika
COACH Michael Cheika has given his recalled lock a calculated rev-up because Rob Simmons Lite is not going to drive the Wallabies to a Test upset over the All Blacks in Yokohama on Saturday.
Cheika had Israel Folau’s promotion to outside centre, Sekope Kepu’s 100th Test and Sefa Naivalu’s return from the wilderness to wax on about at his pre-Test media conference yet he still made a deliberate detour to put the acid on his 90-Test lock.
Losing top lock Adam Coleman (groin) removes one of the Wallabies most physical performers from the fray but Cheika made it clear that it should not be a void when a player of Simmons’ calibre is stepping in.
Rob Simmons has been singled out for a pump up from coach Michael Cheika. Picture: AAPSource:Getty Images
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No player in Cheika’s four-year run as coach has been dropped, pushed to the bench or recalled more times than Simmons, the best lineout technician in the Wallabies squad but a player whose authority can wane too often in other areas.
Cheika has picked him 44 times, this is No.45, so he backs the ability within the veteran who was a frontline figure in the run to the 2015 World Cup final.
Michael Cheika is laying down the law. Picture: Stuart WalmsleySource:News Corp Australia
“Well, I think Rob has got a lot to prove here,” Cheika said.
“He’s been there of thereabouts for a long time.
“He’s a quality player and he needs to put his foot down and show he’s got everything required to be a regular starter.
“In the competition between himself, (Izack) Rodda, Coleman and (Rory) Arnold, he can’t just be happy to be there if someone like Adam is out.
“I would like him, and I expect him, to believe in himself more about how he can put himself out there physically.
“He’s got a great engine and maybe people have let him have a ride where maybe he doesn’t have to, but now, with the (plentiful) situation we’re in around that position, he needs to bring that and I think he wants to.”
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Having Simmons to run the lineout from the kick-off, Australia’s most wobbly technical area all year, has a big upside straight away because his eight Tests of this season have all been off the bench.
He was a winning contributor to the 23-18 upset of the All Blacks in the corresponding Test a year ago in Brisbane and that really is the soaring confidence-booster the Wallabies are chasing again.
Cheika also explained that the return of Allan Alaalatoa to starting tighthead prop was on pure form because he felt Taniela Tupou “didn’t deliver those performances starting that he did finishing” in his two most recent Tests.
“Even though I was dropped to the bench for the last two games, it was about changing my mindset, understanding where the team was at on the day and providing extra spark when I did come on,” Alaalatoa said.
He did just that with a commanding second half in the record comeback to beat Argentina in Salta.
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With 28 Tests behind him at 24, Alaalatoa has already had a magnetic taste of the Wallabies and confirmed he was finalising a long-term deal to stay in Australia.
The speculation of a four-year deal shows how highly he is rated by Cheika and that matching Kepu’s 100 Tests might one day be a reality.
“Ideally, yeah, looking at the long picture that’s the goal,” Alaalatoa said.
“You look at Keps and how he’s achieved that milestone and it takes a lot of sacrifice and work on and off the field to last that long.
“I want to be staying in Australia. That’s where my heart is and I’ll be looking to finalise that over the next couple of weeks.
Could Allan Alaalatoa become a 100-game Wallaby in time? Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
“I know there is a long way to go in Australian rugby but it’s something I want to commit to. Knowing that we have such a young group and have such potential, I just want to be a part of it.
“I see the potential in such a young group and I hope we sign up a lot of the young players and we continue together in the direction we want to go.”
Proving a point against the All Blacks would be a good start because there is always a point to prove against the Kiwis, right?
“Always, always. Everyone is saying the Bledisloe Cup has been lost but you still have that opportunity to play the best in the world,” the prop said.
“For us, it’s about being consistent and seeing that second half against Argentina for the full 80.”
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Originally published as Battling Simmons gets a rocket from Cheika
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