Australia

McKenzie loves his 'X-factor' weapons

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:30
Henry-speight-brumbies-run2
You need a few weapons in your armoury
Quote-end

It may still be some time off, but Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie is relishing the day two of Australia's greatest game-breakers can combine.

Henry Speight, the former Waikato wing, has been named in the Wallaby squad for the Rugby Championship - even though he only qualifies to play for the Wallabies by September 11.

That means he will miss Australia's first three matches of the Rugby Championship - against New Zealand on August 16 (in Sydney) and a week later (in Auckland), as well as South Africa on September 6 (in Perth).

His first, likely, appearance will be when the Wallabies take on Argentina on September 13 at the Gold Coast.

And this is what is having the Wallaby mentor salivating - the possibility if Speight combining with Israel Folau.

While the Wallabies' forwards are probably not rated as highly, McKenzie knows that his team do have a powerful strike-force in the back three.

"You've got to be able to win the ball and do the fundamental parts of the game, but there's no doubt that they are the guys who can make things happen," McKenzie told reporters.

"Call it X-factor or game-breakers or whatever you like, the All Blacks have been blessed with many of them over the years and it's nice to have a few.

"You need a few weapons in your armoury. If you've only got one, they can play them out of the game tactically, but if you've got a couple, it's hard to handle them."

While his rush to formalise the wing's position spoke of McKenzie's regard for his ability, the Australia coach said he had been as much impressed by Speight the man when he trained with the squad in June.

"I think he's a very polished individual, everyone sees the talent and the power but behind the scenes I see a really good guy," McKenzie said.

"Everyone speaks highly of him of a person and as a rugby intellect. He's going to add a lot to the squad."

Speight's focus will undoubtedly be on helping the Brumbies reach a second successive Super Rugby Final this week, but McKenzie thought he would be boosted by knowing his long wait for international recognition was nearly over.

"It's a been a long journey for him, everyone has a different journey and he's had to wait four years to get that opportunity," the former Test prop said.

"I think he'll be very motivated, I can tell by the way he trains that he's motivated to be the best player he can be.

"It's been frustrating and so now to say 'here's your bag and here's your training gear', I think that will be a big weight off his mind."

He'll miss the first three Tests of the Rugby Championship campaign, but McKenzie said he's worth the wait.

"I didn't know much about him till June and I was very impressed with him, on and off the field," said McKenzie.

"Given he wasn't formerly involved, he was a great contributor."

Speight's Brumbies team face the Waratahs in Saturday's Super Rugby semifinal, and with two Australian teams in the play-offs, confidence is high the Wallabies can regain the Bledisloe Cup.

"I think form and confidence, they're good attributes to have," said McKenzie.

"If you're out there beating your opponents and winning consistently, and that's what these teams have been doing, and the Wallabies have been doing the same thing, that's as good a scenario as you can take into a Bledisloe Cup contest."

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