Waratahs winger Taqele Naiyaravoro is "definitely" on Michael Cheikas Wallabies radar for next months series against Ireland following a purple patch in Super Rugby this season.
Cheika is set to name a 33-man Wallabies squad for the first Test in Brisbane and said there were “a couple” of positions still up for grabs.
As far as form players go, Naiyaravoro is right up there among the best Australia has produced this year in Super Rugby. The powerful Fijian-born winger has scored 10 tries in his last eight matches.
He sits equal second on the tally of most tries scored this year, behind Ben Lam from the Hurricanes and level with the Jaguares' Emiliano Boffelli, who has played three fewer matches than Naiyaravoro.
His ability to sniff out a five-pointer has caught the eye of Cheika, the man who lured him to the 15-man code from rugby league.
"He's definitely being looked at," said Cheika of Naiyaravoro, who last played for Australia in June 2016 against England. "He's made a huge impact to the Waratahs, no doubt about it. We've got a lot of competition on the wing but hes definitely up there in players were talking about and were looking at closely. He can do a certain job very, very well.
"He's just making breaks, [he is] big and strong and scoring tries. We certainly can't complain about his form."
From 14 matches last year, the Wallabies used eight different wingers. Reece Hodge (eight games) and Marika Koroibete (seven) were the teams most capped starting wingers, while Henry Speight (six) and Dane Haylett-Petty (four) also got regular starts when they were injury-free.
Cheika's endorsement is interesting given this time last year he overlooked the likes of Rob Horne and Scott Fardy for June Tests because they were heading to ply their trade in the northern hemisphere.
Although Naiyaravoro, 26, has signed a deal with UK club Northampton next season, it looks like Cheika isn't shutting the door on the try-scoring machine.
"If that player is standing out and theyre going overseas, I would be crazy not to pick them," Cheika said. "It can help the team now while theyre with Australian rugby."
Meanwhile, Cheika confirmed halfback Will Genia would be right to play the first Test in Brisbane even if he didn't get a Super Rugby match under his belt following his knee injury.
There was positive news for the Wallabies on Wednesday, with hooker Jordan Uelese named on the Melbourne Rebels bench to face the Sunwolves.
With Stephen Moore retired from international rugby and Tatafu Polota-Nau taking a break from the June series, Uelese is in the box seat to add to his two Tests.
While the Wallabies will have limited preparation before taking on the reigning Six Nations champions, Cheika said there would be no excuses and that history was there to be made.
“We might not be as fluid as wed like … thatll take some games to get it going,” Cheika said. “Weve known this is the plan … I think well be ready.
“The No.1 thing will be our work ethic. All the other stuff is inconsequential. Work ethic principles are the things we need to bring the strongest between now and the World Cup.
“We can manipulate history if we want. Ive had two matches against Ireland, which were important ones for me because of my connection with them. Ive lost them both narrowly at Lansdowne Road. The Grand Slam champions are coming now, so I think it is a good gauge for us."
Cheika also confirmed he was looking into whether Crusaders forward Pete Samu, who is set to sign with the Brumbies, was eligible for selection in June. Cheika also said conversations were taking place in an attempt to get Sean McMahon back for the 2019 World Cup.
Tom Decent is a journalist with Fairfax Media.
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