Rennie’s praise for ‘outstanding’ McReight

Rugby

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie says Fraser McReight will get his Test chances this year as he continues to push skipper Michael Hooper for a starting jersey.

Flanker McReight has been a standout in Queensland’s Super Rugby Pacific campaign to mount a strong case for his first Test start, with the three-match England tour looming in July and the September Bledisloe Cup series announced on Monday.

Leading into last week’s matches McReight had won more turnovers than any player in the Super Rugby competition.

The 23-year-old has only played two Tests in two years, coming off the bench for a total of 32 minutes at No.8, and needs more game time before next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

Rennie agreed that McReight could do little more to earn selection.

“I agree Fraser has been outstanding,” Rennie told AAP.

“His continuity game has just gone to another level, and as we know he’s very good post tackle although he needs to make sure he’s disciplined around that as he’s given away a few penalties.

“He’s worked really hard on his defensive game so he’s doing everything he can.”

While not entirely ruling it out, Rennie thought that playing two specialist openside flankers — as previous Australia coaches have tried, using both Hooper and David Pocock — would “limit” the Wallabies lineout.

Hooper, 30, hasn’t skipped a beat since returning to the NSW Waratahs from a serious foot injury, with Rennie welcoming the competition in the No. 7 position. The Wallabies captain did however take a heavy knock in Saturday night’s dramatic 24-21 victory over the Crusaders.

“Guys like Fraser are massive for us, not just in the depth, but the quality of our Super games, our Super teams and our ability to be competitive,” he said.

“You want guys who are going to fight for a spot.

“We put a lot of emphasis on earning the right to play so Fraser was excellent last year, trained really well, while Hoops (Hooper) was phenomenal.”

Rennie is able to bring in three overseas-based players to face England and said he was likely to do so, with Japan-based Samu Kerevi, Quade Cooper, Marika Koroibete and Rory Arnold the frontrunners.

But Rennie said who he selected would depend on Super Rugby form and injuries in the coming weeks.

“It’ll really depend on what happens over the next few weeks, so if we get a couple of injuries in one spot that’s going to become important for us and that may be the direction that we move in,” he said.

Australia’s first-choice playmaker James O’Connor is out with a knee injury but is targeting a return with Queensland in mid-May.

Rennie felt three Super round-robin games, plus finals, would be enough for O’Connor to regain his touch.

“He’ll get a little bit of footy and he was playing really well leading into that … what we know is he’s trying to make the most of the time out now to ensure that medically when he’s ready to go he will hit the ground running,” Rennie said.

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