Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Graham tips trio for Wallabies

Nick Cummins

Western Force coach Richard Graham believes forwards Sam Wykes and Kieran Longbottom and explosive back Nick Cummins could secure places in Australia's World Cup squad.

The Force are likely to be well-represented in the initial 40-man party selected by Robbie Deans, with Nathan Sharpe, David Pocock, Ben McCalman, Matt Hodgson and Richard Brown among those certain to feature, but Graham said some of his lesser-known players also deserved the chance.

Twenty-three-year-old lock Wykes, 26-year-old prop Longbottom and outside back Cummins, 24, all established regular places with the Force during the season and Graham thinks all had improved enough to warrant selection. He said: "Guys that have had really good seasons and put themselves into contention are Kieran Longbottom, I think he has been fantastic."

He added: "The other guy in the forward pack would be Wykes. His performances this season have been a model of consistency.

"At the end of last season, when we talked and we challenged him (Wykes) with what we believed he could deliver, he's done that. And the other one in the backs is Cummins, again he's another guy who has typified consistency this year."

Wykes hadn't nailed down a regular spot in the Force starting XV from his 25 Super Rugby caps heading into this season, but produced by far his most impressive campaign to earn a place alongside Sharpe in the second row.

And the Wallabies veteran said Wykes showed tremendous improvement during the year.

"You need a bit of consistency in terms of time on the paddock and Wykesy got that this year," Sharpe said. "He didn't have those injuries that he's had niggling him for the last couple of years and that's allowed him to develop because he's had time to mould his game more and more each week.

"The other thing that is a real credit to Sam is his work ethic. He'll be a very solid and consistent footballer for the Western Force for many years to come."

"Whether he earns a Wallabies call-up is out of my hands, but he's had an outstanding season."

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