Scott Fardy admits he is under increasing pressure to retain his Wallaby jersey in the face of fierce back-row competition led by Sean McMahon, who he says has taken his game to the next level.
It’s anticipated coach Michael Cheika will stick with the ‘Fardy-Pooper’ back-row from last year’s Rugby Championship and World Cup for at least the first Test against England on Saturday week at Suncorp Stadium.
But as ever with Cheika, there are no guarantees – particularly given the calibre of flankers on the outer, waiting for their opportunity.
Six-cap workhorse McMahon is top of that list, capable of playing anywhere in the back row and coming off a patch of quality form in Super Rugby.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan declared last month McMahon “has to be” in the mix for a starting Wallabies position on the basis of his performances for the Melbourne franchise – and Fardy agreed.
“There is a lot of pressure,” Fardy told AAP.
“He’s been in incredible form.
“I’ve played against him this year and watched him from afar and he’s been fantastic. He’s gone to another level.”
Fardy said he was also surprised there had not been more talk about Ben McCalman’s chances.
McCalman had a terrific World Cup campaign, providing the Wallabies with fresh impetus as one of Cheika’s ‘finishers’ off the bench – including in the 33-13 win over England, an experience that could favour him at the selection table.
“He was fantastic for us off the bench and did a great job. People probably forget his World Cup,” Fardy said.
Meanwhile, Bath bolter Leroy Houston is likely to be among the nine names cut late on Friday from Australia’s 39-man squad.
But Fardy says the Queensland Reds’ recruit has already made his mark on Camp Wallaby and looks like he fits in.
“He’s a funny guy,” Fardy said.
“But he’s pretty quiet at the moment – taking his early steps.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s been good. He’s a big ball-running No.8 and there’s not many of those around – we’ve really got a shortage.”