Two of the high-profile Australians heavily linked with moves to England after next year’s World Cup, the scrum-half Will Genia and the lock James Horwill, are in the tourists’ starting line-up for Saturday afternoon’s runaround with the Barbarians at Twickenham, and they will take the field with a few words from the new Wallaby coach, Michael Cheika, ringing in their ears.
Cheika, appointed in a rush after Ewen McKenzie’s sudden recent resignation, is not willing to sit back and watch his best talent disappear into the wide blue yonder in search of some ultra-partisan club rugby in Europe, underpinned by a healthy pay packet. “Let’s forget about money for a little bit,” he said after taking the decision to reunite Genia with the ever-unpredictable Quade Cooper at half-back – a real crowd-pleasing option. “The way we’ll keep people in Australia is to give them the best possible preparation and the most enjoyable game to play.
“There might be other bait out there, but if we can provide a good place for them to be, it makes it much harder to leave. My goal is not to go up to one individual and ask him to stay. It’s to make Australia one of the best places to play rugby.”
One of the best places in rugby on Saturday will be in Illinois. The All Blacks, never slow to travel to a far-flung corner of the sporting landscape if there is a decent amount of cash on the table, have sold out the 63,000-capacity Soldier Field in Chicago – one of the great American football cathedrals – for their meeting with the US Eagles.
The home side have drawn heavily from the Premiership: two Saracens in Chris Wyles and Hayden Smith are in the starting line-up, as are Blaine Scully of Leicester, Eric Fry of Newcastle and Samu Manoa of Northampton. The problem? Good players as they are, they just might meet their match in the likes of Kieran Read, the world’s best No 8, and a pumped-up Sonny Bill Williams.Reuse content