A more pol­ished Pow­ell ready for a Test or two

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

MEL­BOURNE: Aus­tralia coach Michael Cheika will wel­come Will Ge­nia back as start­ing scrumhalf for this month’s in­ter­na­tion­als but for­mer ap­pren­tice car­pen­ter Joe Pow­ell, will have his chance to carve out a Wal­la­bies ca­reer in the vet­eran’s shadow.

The shaggy-haired Pow­ell was a shock call-up to Cheika’s squad last year af­ter im­press­ing at the Brumbies in Su­per Rugby but he was left to watch from the side­lines as Aus­tralia were first white­washed 3-0 by Eng­land and then mud­dled through a dis­jointed Rugby Cham­pi­onship cam­paign.

The 23-year-old has been re­called to the squad for next month’s matches against Fiji, Scot­land and Italy, beat­ing out Waratahs’ Jake Gor­don for the right to bat­tle Nick Phipps for the role of Ge­nia’s un­der­study.

Cheika de­scribed last year’s call-up of Pow­ell as an “out there” se­lec­tion but said there was lit­tle left-field about his re­call this year.

“No one is ask­ing about (Pow­ell) this year as they know he’s made the step up to be in Wal­la­bies con­tention,” Cheika said yes­ter­day.

Phipps, with 52 Test caps, is a sea­soned cam­paigner but has strug­gled for con­sis­tency in a dif­fi­cult sea­son for the Waratahs with just four wins from 12 matches.

That has opened the door for Pow­ell, who has stepped up as the Brumbies’ start­ing No 9 this sea­son in the ab­sence of in­jured Ar­gentina scrumhalf To­mas Cubelli.

“If To­mas wasn’t in­jured at the start of the year, I don’t think there would have been any chance I would have been in the squad,” Pow­ell told re­porters in Can­berra yes­ter­day.

“Ob­vi­ously, Jake Gor­don’s been play­ing well and I think he would have got the jump on me.

“I think ev­ery­one was gee-ing me up for a while, say­ing I was go­ing to be in (the squad), so it was a bit of a re­lief to fi­nally say I was ... oth­er­wise it would have been a bit em­bar­rass­ing if I didn’t get there.”

Pow­ell’s im­me­di­ate fo­cus will be on se­cur­ing the twice cham­pion Brumbies a berth in the Su­per Rugby play­offs, and a home win over the lowly Mel­bourne Rebels on Satur­day would go a long way to­ward that end.

The Aus­tralian con­fer­ence­lead­ing Brumbies re­turned to form last week with a 39-15 thrash­ing of the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, run­ning in six tries af­ter fail­ing to cross the line in two of their pre­vi­ous three games.

“We’re scor­ing a few nice tries which is nice to see be­cause we had a bit of a drought there,” said Pow­ell.

“So, it was nice to get that off our back.” – Reuters

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