Is it really possible that New Zealand Rugby will give Ian Foster his marching orders in the event that the All Blacks lose to Argentina on Saturday in the penultimate game of the Tri Nations competition?
Three of Australian rugby’s biggest stars are on track to make their returns from injury in the new National Rugby Championship (NRC).
Quade Cooper, Will Genia and Henry Speight will all push for Wallabies selection via their respective NRC teams during the domestic competition – which kicks off on August 21.
It’s a huge boost for the nine-team tournament, and highlights the importance of a third-tier rugby competition in Australia.
Cooper and Genia, who were the Wallabies’ first choice halves pairing until the June Tests against France, will build on their long-running combination after both being named in the Brisbane City side on Friday.
Both Cooper (shoulder) and Genia (ankle) are targeting mid-September returns from their respective long-term injuries, giving them roughly seven NRC matches to catch the eye of Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie ahead of November’s European Spring Tour.
While Cooper and Genia have more than 100 Test appearances between them, it’s uncapped Speight who is most likely to receive the first call-up to the Wallabies after his barnstorming Super Rugby finals form.
The Fijian flyer was named in McKenzie’s initial 32-man squad before having to pull out due to a hamstring injury suffered during the semi-final against the Waratahs.
Speight is targeting a return to the paddock in about one month for the Canberra Vikings – their squad also named on Friday.
That will give him one – possibly two – games to impress and gain match fitness before he becomes eligible for the Wallabies on September 11.
With The Rugby Championship running until October 4 – and the third Bledisloe Cup played on October 18 – all three players could work their way into the national side before the Spring Tour if injuries hit the current squad – or their form warrants selection.