Former Wallabies prop and Brisbane City head coach Nick Stiles could be rubbing his hands in delight at the thought of having three contracted Wallabies on his National Rugby Championship roster - but if all things go to plan, he hopes they don’t play.
Stiles, a loosehead prop who played 12 Tests for the Wallabies from 2001-2002, hopes that James Horwill, Will Genia and Quade Cooper will be all back where he feels they belong in the Wallabies green and gold as soon as possible.
Stiles has lost his trademark prop physique having taken up running half-marathons. But his mind is still very much on the job of rugby as the Queensland Reds forwards coach prepares his Brisbane City for their NRC opener against Sydney City at Ballymore next Thursday.
In the back of his mind he knows there is a chance that Horwill, who missed out on the 23 man Wallabies squad for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney, Genia and Cooper - who are on the comeback trail from injury - could play for him.
However, in reality, he expects that Genia and Cooper will get some game time.
Asked about the possibility of Horwill donning the Brisbane strip, Stiles said: “He is named in our squad. It will be more to do [with] what the Wallabies want to do with him.
“Second row is not a position where there is a lot of depth in Australia, and it’s a pretty abrasive position, the second row. I am sure he will be used in the Wallabies sooner than later, but it would be great to have him running around with us.”
However, Stiles has been encouraged by Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie’s policy on allowing the use of Wallabies squad members not being needed for Test duty.
“Ewen has already been very good in his communication with us saying he wants players not involved in the Wallabies to be playing NRC,” Stiles said.
“Guys like Jimmy and other players involved in the Wallabies squad during the week, once it gets to the end of the week if they feel there is a need for them to play, they will push them back to NRC which gives the competition more credibility as well.”
Stiles expects Horwill will have been disappointed by his selection snub.
“Jimmy is a very proud and passionate footballer. He wears his emotions on his chest for everyone to see,” Stiles said.
“Probably the hardest thing is that I reckon he has probably had his most consistent year than what he has had over the last few years.
“He hasn’t been injured. He has played the full season with the Reds.
“So while he would be disappointed, he probably feels he is in a better position to push for section on the back of what he has done for the Reds.
“There is now competition through all positions. James will rise to that competition.”
As for Genia and Cooper, Stiles says the NRC will assist their return from injuries,
“Previously, if they were returning from injuries they would have no rugby to get themselves back to game ready and to be in a position where they could push for Wallabies section. Having this competition is great for those guys,” Stiles said.
“It’s obviously not Super Rugby. It’s not international rugby, but it will be much higher than club rugby.
“And it also gives players from club land an opportunity to play with internationals.”
Stiles understands that right now: “Their main focus is just getting the rehab right.
“We’ve only had limited meetings and training sessions, but they have been involved in those. But as they get closer to a return to play they’ll get more heavily involved.”