Fit-again halfback Will Genia will play his first match in three months as he uses the NRC to jump back into Wallabies calculations.
Will Genia insists the Wallabies aren’t on his radar but his NRC coach, former Test prop Nick Stiles, says Saturday’s comeback will prove he’s ready for an immediate return.
Genia will play his first match in three months when he makes a 40-minute NRC debut for Brisbane City against another Australian No.9 contender, Melbourne Rising’s Luke Burgess, at Ballymore.
With Nick Phipps unseating Nic White for this weekend’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa, the 40-Test halfback can only currently be ranked third in the country.
However, Stiles has no doubts Genia could walk straight back into Australia’s backline in next week’s match against Argentina on the Gold Coast.
The Brisbane mentor and Queensland forwards coach says Genia, who underwent ankle surgery in June, will hit the ground running just like he did last year when he returned six months after a knee reconstruction.
“Will is an incredible trainer on and off the field,” Stiles said. “He is that diligent with his recovery and he’s a student of the game.
“He’s Wallaby-ready. You could put him in this weekend and he would be right to play, that’s his character.”
Genia’s surgery was only supposed to sideline him until mid-August but he’s taken a cautious approach to fully recover and also overcome knee, neck and back niggles which have taken the edge off his game in 2014.
Rated the best halfback in the world 14 months ago, the 26-year-old suffered a shock blow when overlooked by Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie for June’s three-Test series against France.
He admitted his ankle problem affected his play for the Reds but wasn’t using it as an excuse – pointing to his man-of-the-match display in his last appearance against the Highlanders.
Even so, the chance to freshen up physically and mentally should put him in the best position to return to the match-winning form of 2010-12.
“With the injury I knew it was impacting on my performance because in games I couldn’t accelerate and turn and chase and what-not quite naturally,” he said. “It was inhibiting me in that sense.
“Having the operation I can feel the difference now.”
With Phipps, White and Burgess in the 30-man Wallabies squad for their next two Tests, Genia’s earliest likely return would be for the overseas tour against the Springboks (September 27) and Pumas (October 4).
“It would be nice to get picked for the Wallabies again but it’s not something that I’ve put too much thought into,” he said. “I just want to get out there and play. The NRC looks a whole lot of fun.”
Brumbies flyers Henry Speight and Joe Tomane will also use the NRC as a launching pad for Test selection when they line up for the Canberra Vikings against Queensland Country on Saturday.
The “Fro Bros” have finally overcome lingering hamstring problems which cost Tomane a starting berth in last month’s Bledisloe Tests and put Fiji-born Speight’s long-awaited Wallabies debut on ice.