Koroibete to make Aust rugby debut

Joe Barton

Former NRL star Marika Koroibete has been named to make his Australian rugby debut for a Wallabies XV against the French Barbarians this week.

Koroibete was on Monday named in a 19-man Australian squad to play in Bordeaux on Thursday (Friday morning AEDT), along with three fellow Spring Tour squad members and some surprise faces.

Former Wallaby Mark Gerrard, who has been playing in Japan since 2013, has earned a stunning recall to add experience to a largely developmental squad.

Gerrard, who earned the last of his 23 Test caps in 2007, has been included alongside fellow overseas-based former Wallabies Peter Kimlin and Nathan Charles and former captain Ben Mowen.

The team will be coached by former Wallabies and Waratahs assistant Scott Wisemantel, who leads an all-Australian staff of former Wallabies Morgan Turinui, Justin Harrison and Chris Whitaker.

They'll be in charge of a team that also includes development players Izaia Perese, Jack Dempsey and Andrew Kellaway - all of whom have been training with the Wallabies for the past three weeks.

"It's a great opportunity for me and I'm excited by the potential of some of these young Australians coming through the ranks," Scott Wisemantel said.

"It's a perfect setting for their development, but also for my development as a coach."

Five of the seven British Barbarians who joined the Wallabies camp in Paris last week will feature in Bordeaux, though tellingly utility back Luke Morahan has for the moment been kept behind by Cheika to take part in the team's preparations in Dublin for the crucial grand slam Test against Ireland.

Prop Toby Smith, the seventh Barbarian, was expected to play this fixture but will instead fly home to Australia after suffering a split above his eye at training last week in a savage collision with hard-nosed backrower Sean McMahon.

Rising prop prospect Tom Robertson, impact forward Will Skelton and back-up half Nick Frisby are the three Spring Tour squad members to be released by coach Michael Cheika for the clash, along with Koroibete.

Koroibete, who joined rugby union after ending a five-year rugby league stint with the NRL grand final, will get his first taste of the fifteen-man game since his high school days in Fiji.

"With the Wallaby XV, we want to create a mix of experienced players as well as our developing players coming through," Michael Cheika said.

"A lot of these lads have been with us over the past three weeks on tour and have been preparing for this Wallaby XV game as their Test match, especially against an international line-up that the French Barbarians will have."

It is understood a further five or more squad members will leave Dublin on Tuesday to join the squad, will fly back on Friday and could be available for Saturday's Test should there be any injuries at training this week.


Sam Carter, Nathan Charles, Jack Dempsey, Sef Fa'agase, Nick Frisby, Mark Gerrard, Andrew Kellaway, Peter Kimlin, Marika Koroibete, Jono Lance, David Lolohea, Ben Mowen, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Andrew Ready, Izaia Perese, Tom Robertson, Paddy Ryan, Will Skelton, Nic Stirzaker (more to be added).