Cheika impressed by McMahon

Date published: November 7 2014

Wallabies flanker Sean McMahon, who makes his Test debut on Saturday, was an “unknown” to coach Michael Cheika not too long ago.

New Wallabies blindside flanker Sean McMahon, who makes his Test debut on Saturday, was an “unknown” to coach Michael Cheika not long ago.

20-year-old Rebels star McMahon will cap his meteoric rise through Australian rugby ranks when he wins his first cap against Wales in Cardiff.

“He was an unknown to me since not so long,” admitted Cheika ahead of this week’s Test.

“I’d only seen him play on video or the occasional game we played against him.”

The flanker put in an excellent performance in Australia’s 40-36 victory over the Barbarians at Twickenham last week, and with Cheika new in the job and keen to pick on form, McMahon has come in for the injured Scott Higginbotham.

“He got an opportunity and he took it. He wasn’t scared to carry the ball, get involved, run hard and tackle hard – the basics of rugby,” said Cheika, the only coach to have won the European Cup (Leinster, 2009) and Super Rugby title.

“It’s not complicated, sometimes it’s just about taking the opportunity presented to you.

“(Some people are saying) it’s a great way to cap off the year, but it’s actually just the start for Sean, this is his opportunity to build something going forward.”

Cheika added: “It’s becoming quite clear that he’s a tough guy and likes to get in the mix and get involved and take responsibility rather than sit back and watch the match unfold.”

“This selection also recognises the outstanding year he has had at all levels of the game, and he thoroughly deserves the chance to debut for Australia.”

McMahon, Super Rugby rookie of the year in 2014 and a bronze medal winner at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, said his Cardiff debut had left him feeling “pretty stoked”.

“The nerves are kicking in a bit, but it’s more excitement than anything. I’m looking forward to the weekend,” said the measured McMahon, who also captained the Australia under-20 squad at the IRB World Junior Championships in June.

“Playing at Twickenham and now getting the opportunity to play at the Millennium, you couldn’t ask for two better pitches,” he said.

“I’m just going to go out there and do my job, what I’ve been practising the last couple of weeks since I’ve been on tour.”