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Waratahs take step into unknown as new coach starts to call shots

Fact-finding outing … Michael Cheika.

Fact-finding outing … Michael Cheika. Photo: James Brickwood

THE auditions have started. The Waratahs' first week back at the office has involved fitness testing, conditioning and one-on-one pow-wows with new coach Michael Cheika.

Today the squad takes on the Coogee stairs, a vomit-inducing run up 210 steps at the southern end of the eastern suburbs beach, in the next instalment of his pre-season fact-finding agenda. Who's fit, who's not, who puts in.

''I think he's putting out a challenge,'' Tahs' club captain Pat McCutcheon said. ''He's going to challenge the players to go beyond their usual [routine] and whether they accept that. I'm sure they will accept it because if they don't they'll be spat out the back.''

McCutcheon will be spared the stairs session today as he continues rehabilitation for a dislocated left ankle that ended his season before it really got started in early March.

The back-rower completed his first run since the injury yesterday and hopes to join the squad's regular sessions in early to mid-December.

That could be about the same time some serious competition arrives in the form of new recruit Michael Hooper, who will join the province after the Wallabies' end-of-year tour. McCutcheon said he was looking forward to meeting his new teammate but was undaunted by the hype surrounding the former Brumbies No.7.

''I don't think it changes too much to be honest, even when Chris Alcock was there and before that with Phil Waugh, there was always a challenge to be a better player,'' he said. ''A player like Michael who's doing so well and is playing at Test level, it's healthy within the club to have that competition. But if I can be in similar shape to where I was at the beginning of last season then I think I'll be in a good position.''

McCutcheon has spent seven months working hard on rehabilitation but the 25-year-old is deserving of some good fortune after two seasons disrupted by an ankle injury, the calf tear that preceded it and a slipped disc before that.

''I thought [this year] year would be an opportunity to have a breakout season and stamp some authority on [the position] and make it mine, but unfortunately that isn't always the case,'' McCutcheon said. ''A season without injury is something I'm really looking forward to.''

Halfback Brendan McKibbin will be running the south Coogee stairs today and will be doing everything he can to prove his passion and work ethic in front of his new coach. He is one of three halfbacks in the squad for next season alongside new signing Matt Lucas and the player who finished this season in the No.9 jersey, Grayson Hart.

''As much as I guess that was a little bit of a disappointment, this is a new year and I can't wait to improve myself under Cheika and really try and adapt to the way he wants us to play, because I know that's going to be different,'' McKibbin said.

A consistently high-performing halfback/five-eighth combination will be key to the Waratahs success next year, much as it was the province's Achilles heel this year

❏ Irish star Brian O'Driscoll is considering a stint with the Waratahs to wrap up his storied career.

The 33-year-old Ireland captain, contracted to European Heineken Cup champions Leinster until mid-2013, mooted his desire for a switch in London's Daily Telegraph.

''The three best teams in the world make up the Super 15 and, and you look at the individuals and you look at the calibre of the sides and the quality of Super Rugby and the intensity of it, obviously it is a hugely high standard,'' said the Dublin-born centre.

''My time might have passed on that front but I'm definitely a never-say-never sort of person.''

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Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
 

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