AAP Rugby

It’s my job to chase the best, says Cheika

By AAP Newswire

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says he wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't pursue the best talent on offer.

Cheika on Friday claimed reports that he'd phoned NRL superstar Kalyn Ponga in a bid to lure him back to rugby were largely the media "just making plenty of noise".

But he stressed he also needed to protect rugby's integrity.

Asked directly if the reports were simply "hot air", Cheika said: "No, listen, I would not be doing my job if I didn't speak to the best players around and say 'mate, are you interested in playing?'

"Now Ponga played rugby (during his schoolboy days in Brisbane), like many players, and I think that this leads back to a different discussion about it.

"Not as much about whether I spoke to this guy or that guy or whatever, it comes back to the discussion that players who are coming through our schools are playing rugby, we need to be securing them and giving them a pathway that they want to play the game and not go and play league.

"There's a bunch of guys who are playing NRL right now who have come through the rugby schools."

Speaking at Randwick Rugby Club's annual luncheon in Sydney, Cheika received a standing ovation from the crowd when he spoke passionately about keeping the likes of Ponga in the 15-man game.

NSW State of Origin pair Angus Crichton and Cameron Murray are among the league stars killing it in the NRL after rising through the schoolboy rugby ranks.

"Let's say in the last three years there might be 12 to 15 kids who have come out of rugby schools and are playing the NRL at a good level, if you just had even a third of those who were playing rugby and were playing at the top level, that's a third of your Wallabies team who could have more competition in it," Cheika said.

"I certainly value the players we have, a lot, but competition is king. When you're fighting for your spot, you fight a lot harder."