McKibbin won't be in a position of comfort
Pressure … McKibbin. Photo: Getty Images
WARATAHS halfback Brendan McKibbin says he will ''never get comfortable'' in the starting No.9 jersey despite emerging as the clear frontrunner in the battle for the crucial spot.
NSW coach Michael Cheika said McKibbin was in the ''box seat'' to start ahead of teammates Grayson Hart and Matt Lucas against Queensland in Brisbane this weekend after a solid performance against the Crusaders last week and in the side's two earlier trials.
And while McKibbin said he wanted the starting jersey, he could not imagine becoming complacent about his position in the pecking order.
''I don't think the pressure will ever be off because the other two guys are pushing so hard, which is creating a really good environment within the three of us,'' he said.
''I will never get comfortable, whether I'm wearing it, on the bench or not playing at all. I won't be taking my foot off the pedal, that's for sure.''
The planets appear to be aligned for McKibbin's best season yet, provided he remains injury-free.
The 27-year-old Easts player was buried deep in an intensive Waratahs pre-season program when the call came to join the Wallabies as injury cover for Force halfback Brett Sheehan, who twisted his ankle.
McKibbin was named on the bench against Wales, and despite not getting a run, remains grateful for an introduction to the Test arena, as well as a break from running the Coogee stairs.
''I had had four weeks longer of a hard pre-season under [Cheika] than everyone else so it was good to get a little bit of a release,'' he said.
''It gave me a little bit of a taste of what the Wallabies environment is about, and that's something I will strive for this year, to get in there again, because it's the pinnacle.
''But it's the Waratahs first. If I can play consistently good rugby with the Tahs the rest will take care of itself.''
That starts on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium when NSW takes on a Queensland side undoubtedly stinging from a 24-6 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra.
Neither the Reds nor the Waratahs looked the complete package in their outings last week, both struggling with ball security and polish.
The Waratahs will be lacking an experienced five-eighth to take on Quade Cooper, although the Reds playmaker and his stand-in halves partner Ben Lucas, brother of NSW rookie Matt Lucas, are a similarly unfamiliar pairing.
McKibbin said he and new five-eighth Ben Volavola would be working on their communication this week.
''He's been doing a pretty good job, he gives me and the other No.9s a fair bit of voice, and that's something we'll have to manage a little better going into [the Reds game] because if you give someone an inch that'll cost you,'' he said.
The Crusaders trial match, which the Waratahs lost 16-14, was a good gauge of where the squad sat and what needed to be done to prepare for their first match of the regular season, McKibbin said.
''For the whole of the starting pack it was their first game so they were always going to have a bit of dirty air in their lungs,'' he said.