Cheika’s Plan To Get Koroi­bete Started

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Marika Koroi­bete’s tran­si­tion from rugby league is set to be fast-tracked un­der a shrewd plan from Wal­la­bies coach Michael Cheika to have the Mel­bourne Storm NRL grand fi­nal star in­cluded in the Bar­bar­ians side next month.

It is be­lieved Cheika has bro­kered a spot for the Fi­jian flyer with rugby union’s most fa­mous in­vi­ta­tional team for the Novem­ber 5 clash with South Africa in front of a 50,000-plus crowd at London’s Wem­b­ley sta­dium. Cheika had been scratch­ing his head for ways to get the for­mer Mel­bourne Storm try-scor­ing whiz started in rugby. Play­ing with the Baa-Baas un­der for­mer Wal­la­bies coach Rob­bie Deans would have huge ben­e­fits for Cheika’s re­gen­er­a­tion agenda. Not only would it pro­vide Koroi­bete, 24, with a com­fort­able, lim­ited-stress en­vi­ron­ment to test his rusty rugby skills but also give him a taste of the code’s in­ter­na­tional flavour.

A clash against his na­tive Fiji in Belfast a week later is also part of the Baa-Baas sched­ule. Koroi­bete would be much bet­ter pre­pared should he then join the tour­ing Wal­la­bies for their non­cap game against the French Bar­bar­ians in Bordeaux on Novem­ber 24. The ex­po­sure to top coaches and play­ers is just what Koroi­bete needs be­fore he tack­les a big pre­sea­son with his new club the Mel­bourne Rebels. The Baa-Baas move is not with­out prece­dent. Mat Rogers, an­other code­hop­per, was drafted into the 2001 Bar­bar­ians for a match against the Wal­la­bies in Cardiff for ex­actly the same rea­son. It gave him a run­ning start at play­ing for the NSW Waratahs the fol­low­ing year.

The Baa-Baas is also likely to be an av­enue to give other fringe Wal­la­bies, like hooker Tolu Latu and wingers Luke Mo­ra­han, Sefa Naivalu and Henry Speight some more Novem­ber rugby. For­mer dual in­ten­tional Lote Tuqiri be­lieves Koroi­bete’s speed and bump­ing runs will make him “a suc­cess 100 per cent” in rugby. Cheika is a strong ad­vo­cate for the ben­e­fits of the Na­tional Rugby Cham­pi­onship and will free up to seven Wal­la­bies to play in this week­end’s semi-fi­nals. No names have been con­firmed but it is al­most cer­tain Mo­ra­han (Perth Spirit) and Scott Fardy (Syd­ney Rays) will spice up Sun­day’s semi-fi­nal at Syd­ney’s Pittwa­ter Park. Mi­nor pre­miers NSW Coun­try (Nick Phipps and Latu) will likely be strength­ened to face Mel­bourne (Sefa Naivalu and James Han­son) in New­cas­tle on Satur­day. Koroi­bete had an ex­haust­ing year with the Storm so a post-grand fi­nal break is what his body needs more than any­thing.

Photo: Zim­bio

Marika Koroi­bete

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