Cheika may make exception for departing winger
RAMPAGING Waratahs winger Taqele Naiyaravoro is firmly in contention to play for the Wallabies against Ireland in June despite not being available for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
And Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says he also plans to check on the availability of Aussie-raised Crusaders flanker Peter Samu before naming his squad next Wednesday.
Naiyaravoro has been a tackle-shedding force for the Tahs this season and added another two tries to his season tally at the weekend.
The 125kg winger became the first Waratah to score four doubles in a season and only needs two more tries in the last four games to equal Israel Folau's all-time record of 12.
Normally, such dominant form would see Naiyaravoro a no-brainer for Cheika's squad in June but the two-cap Wallaby has already signed to play for Northampton next year, ruling him out of the World Cup.
Recent Wallabies coaches, including Cheika, have tended to overlook players due to leave Australian rugby, and Scott Fardy and Rob Horne were discarded last season in that fashion.
But Cheika said he only overlooked the overseas-bound player if two guys were in similar form and one was staying.
"But if that player is standing out, and they're going overseas, I would be crazy not to pick them, to help the team now," Cheika said.
"(Naiyaravoro) is definitely being looked at. He has made a huge impact for the Waratahs, no doubt about it. It is an area we are very strong, we have a lot of competition on the wing but he is definitely up there in players we are talking about and looking at closely as far as selection because he can do a certain job very, very well.
"He's making breaks, big and strong, scoring tries. He is starting to learn about working a bit harder as well. Getting back to work on counter and wanting to be involved more."
Naiyaravoro debuted for the Wallabies in 2015 but only played one further Test, off the bench against England in 2016. He signed with Northampton under the impression he was out of the Wallabies frame.
Cheika will meet with his coaching staff on Monday to finalise the 33-man squad for June.
He said it was "logical" for Tatafu Polota-Nau to take a break in June, and said it would be good for a few of "four young hookers" vying for selection to come in and get experience.
Blindside flanker is another position for concern after Ned Hanigan's injury.
Cheika admitted he would seek clarity on whether Samu is eligible for selection.
The Crusaders flanker is set to join the Brumbies next year but would need to sign the contract and be released by the NZRU, who also believe he is eligible for the Kiwis and thus not subject to regulation 9.
"I am not sure what is happening with the contract status there, if he's signed or he hasn't signed so I will have to find that out beforehand. But yeah, I will look at where that is at before we sit down and pick a team," Cheika said.
Cheika is likely to turn to Lukhan Tui, who played No.6 off the bench last year and will balance out a short Hooper-Pocock combination.
Angus Cottrell has also been mentioned in dispatches but Brumbies young gun Rob Valetini has been ruled out for six weeks.
With an unrelenting "work ethic" set to be his catchcry this season, Cheika said he was happy with the form and fitness of the Aussie teams leading into June.
He believes there will no repeat of the fatigue shown last June, when players weren't in the right shape coming out of Super Rugby to handle the increased intensity of Wallabies training.
"We tried to get involved in Super Rugby earlier so guys are coming in better nick and I think the Super Rugby teams have worked really well in the fitness area," Cheika said.
"Getting the work into the guys so that in June, when the intensity and the work levels go up, they're used to it.
"I would say that by looking at the way the work has been done through most teams, that should be the case. So it should give us a better leg up, straight away."