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Open season at the Tahs: Cheika puts Folau in frame for fullback as stars scrap for spots


Dominic Bossi

Eyeing a spot ... Waratahs recruit Israel Folau in training with his teammates at Moore Park on Tuesday.

Eyeing a spot ... Waratahs recruit Israel Folau in training with his teammates at Moore Park on Tuesday. Photo: Anthony Johnson

IT MAY be a ploy to put the wind up his established players but new Waratahs coach Michael Cheika says all 15 starting positions are up for grabs with the start of the Super Rugby season looming.

The Waratahs play their first pre-season match against the Melbourne Rebels next Saturday in Tasmania and, while the players returning from international camp are likely to be rested, Cheika said the race for positions was wide open.

''I'd say all of them [are open], it's a clean slate,'' he said. ''Obviously some guys are coming back from Wallaby representation in the spring series overseas. They have credit so they're in the box seat. Players who've been here now for three months of the pre-season will be ready to take their opportunity when it comes, whether it's the first game in Hobart against the Rebels or the second game.''

Former rugby league and AFL star Israel Folau is likely to play on the wings or at fullback for the Waratahs and will not be deployed in the centres. Cheika confirmed Folau was being trained to play deep in the back line but he is yet to undergo extensive work on his kicking game.

''He'll be playing in the backs somewhere. That's where he'll be doing all his training and we're very happy with the way he's progressing,'' Cheika said. ''You're kicking with a lot more pressure in rugby. To be honest, we haven't really focused too much on kicking at this stage and we've really put a lot towards our attacking game and I think that's something we can work on. I think the core theme of what we want to do is play attacking football.''

The returning international players will be given an option to play in the second warm-up match, against the Blues in Whangarei on February 9. Cheika hinted his attention will be more on those vying for contracts.

''The first trial will be taken up by all the guys who've been working since the first day of pre-season, so the guys who are returning won't be playing in that first game against Melbourne. The second trial will have some guys from the Wallabies looking to get some game time,'' Cheika said. ''But for many of the guys who are club players or guys playing for possible contracts, it's going to be some big matches.''

The arrival of a new coach has created a competitive atmosphere on the training ground and Cheika said he had been surprised by the quality of the younger players fighting for deals.

''I've been impressed by several players who perhaps I haven't heard much about before and I've seen some young players who look pretty interesting to me and also some club players who perhaps haven't had the recognition of a contract, but do not look out of place running with professional players,'' he said.

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Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45Leicester City Stadium
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 22:00Leicester City Stadium
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
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 3 3 0 0 97 13
Wales 3 3 0 0 58 13
England 3 1 2 0 1 6
Fiji 3 0 3 0 -49 0
Uruguay 2 0 2 0 -107 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 3 2 1 0 56 11
Scotland 3 2 1 0 40 10
Japan 3 2 1 0 -12 8
Samoa 3 1 2 0 -52 4
USA 2 0 2 0 -32 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 3 3 0 0 87 14
Argentina 3 2 1 0 64 10
Tonga 3 1 2 0 -22 6
Georgia 3 1 2 0 -71 4
Namibia 2 0 2 0 -58 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 3 3 0 0 84 14
France 3 3 0 0 72 14
Italy 3 1 2 0 -24 5
Canada 3 0 3 0 -71 1
Romania 2 0 2 0 -61 0
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