Rugby: Leali'ifano likely to miss Wallabies opener

Christian Leali'ifano playing for the Wallabies in 2014. Photo / Getty Images
Christian Leali'ifano playing for the Wallabies in 2014. Photo / Getty Images

Expectant father Christian Leali'ifano appears set to miss the Wallabies' opening Test against England on Saturday after again being a no-show at training.

Leali'ifano missed Tuesday's weights session, still waiting by his pregnant wife's side in Canberra for the arrival of their first child.

He also did not feature at last week's initial training camp on the Sunshine Coast.

No deadline has been given for Brumbies skipper Leali'ifano, but it seems unlikely he will be selected to fill the vacant inside centre role with so little time left to prepare with the squad.

The Wallabies do not train again until Thursday, the same day the team for the Suncorp Stadium Test is to be named.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has hinted that Tevita Kuridrani will be retained the outside centre role but there is a big question mark over who will fill the inside centre sport with World Cup choice Matt Giteau absent and Kurtley Beale injured.

That leaves Leali'ifano, Israel Folau, Karmichael Hunt, Reece Hodge and Samu Kerevi as possibilities.

Kerevi and Kuridrani are tipped to team up in a big-bodied centre combination that would blunt an anticipated England debut by former NRL star Ben Te'o.

Te'o is considered a strong chance of playing in the centres for the tourists, capping a remarkable rise in rugby union since quitting rugby league in 2014.

Wallabies defence coach Nathan Grey believed Te'o's inexperience on the international stage could be tested.

"He's a great talent. He provides a really good strong ball-carrying centre," Grey said.

"He's certainly on the sharper end of the queue in terms of being across what his
strengths and weaknesses are."

Asked what his weakness was, Grey said: "His time in the game.
"He's been playing for a number of years now.

"But obviously taking that step up and playing international level is a big step.

"Everything gets tested at a higher level - you've got less time, less space.

"Your skills and execution under pressure is the hardest thing to replicate."

Grey baulked when asked if the Wallabies would target Te'o.

"You are soothsaying a little bit there," he said.

"Guys can step up to that level pretty quickly."

- AAP

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