Joe Powell is keen to sell himself to Wallabies selectors in an Australian derby showdown on Saturday, admitting he wasn’t playing well enough when he was dropped last year.
Powell is one of several World Cup hopefuls who will get a chance to put their names up in lights when the Brumbies play against the Waratahs at Parramatta. The Brumbies will also have a chance to secure their Super Rugby finals return if other results go their way in the penultimate round of the regular season. But the individual battles for Wallabies jerseys will light the fuse for another interstate war as time runs out for players to impress Test coach Michael Cheika.
On a mission: Brumbies star Joe Powell, here at a workshop with Canberra Grammar on Tuesday, wants to book his ticket to Tokyo.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong
Powell was left out of Wallabies spring tour squad last year and his absence opened the door for NSW halfback Jake Gordon to go on his first international tour.
Will Genia is widely considered the first-choice No.9 in Australia, leaving Powell to battle with Gordon, his NSW teammate Nick Phipps and Tate McDermott for back-up duties. Powell has played four Tests since making his debut in 2017.
"You’re selling yourself every time you play," Powell said. "You’re trying to play the best you can for yourself and for the team, so that’s something I’m probably a bit more aware of now. It’s definitely competitive to be anywhere in the [Wallabies squad].
"I don’t really know where I am, I just want to play well for the Brumbies. Everyone’s had one-on-ones with Cheik, talking about things to work on. I’ve got my things to work on and a direction to head.
"Originally last year [I was left out of Wallabies] to come and play some footy in the NRC and I didn’t play well enough. On the flip side, it allowed me to have a full pre-season to set me up for this year. It’s a huge driver [to get to a World Cup], I’ve been around the Wallabies set-up for the last few years now so, hopefully, I can get in there."
Powell is one of several players set for direct head to head battles with others trying to win the same ticket to the World Cup.
Christian Lealiifano will square off with Bernard Foley, Tom Banks with Kurtley Beale, Allan Alaalatoa with Sekope Kepu and Ned Hanigan with Pete Samu.
Winning the match will help individuals push their claims. Winning will also help the Brumbies get back to the finals after finishing outside the top eight last year.
The Brumbies are five points clear at the top of the Australian conference and can guarantee themselves a home final if they convincingly beat the Waratahs.
Powell has played his way into World Cup contention. Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong
"But we’re not looking at that. We’re just focused on a good performance this weekend and then whatever happens from there will take care of itself," Powell said. "The big turning [point] for us was probably when we lost to the Reds [earlier this year]. We went back and looked at our prep … we probably got a bit slack in that area. But since then it’s been a big thing that’s changed."
The Brumbies have won four in a row, but they haven’t won more consecutive games than that since going on a six-match winning streak in 2007.
They have also won the past three games against the Waratahs and can end NSW’s faint finals hopes if they continue the run this weekend. "We’re confident we can bring our form into this game. Our forwards have been going well all season and our backs are starting to click now as well, which gives us two points of attack," Powell said.
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