Wallaby youngster hopes versatility works in his favour

Buenos Aires: Wallaby debutant Lukhan Tui hopes his versatility and willingness to swap between being a second-rower and back-rower will bolster his chances of getting regular appearances for Australia this year.

Tui, the 21-year-old Queensland Reds prodigy, got his first taste of Test rugby on Sunday against the Springboks during Australia's 27-27 draw in Bloemfontein.

He was injected into the game in the 62nd minute, replacing Adam Coleman and in doing so became Wallaby No.914 and the 24th Australian debutant since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Tui has played just 13 games of Super Rugby in the past two seasons but standing at 198 centimetres, you can understand why coach Michael Cheika is so keen on the youngster.

He has played his entire Super Rugby career in the second row but when he took up rugby three years ago, he started as a No.8.

While being at the back of the scrum might not be Tui's future, a spot at No.6 or elsewhere in the back-row looks like it will be Cheika's preference for him, something Tui says he would not complain about.

"Being able to play two positions is something that is always handy to have, particularly if you're playing a role off the bench," Tui said. "I haven't read too much into it but he [Cheika] has chatted to me about potentially playing No.6. It's a challenge that I'm more than happy to take on. I enjoy watching the sixes play all over the world and in a way it's similar to the way I like to play.

"When I started playing rugby there years ago, my first game was at No.8. I was there so I could carry the ball but as time went on I grew too tall. Whether it be No.6, outside-centre or fullback for the Wallabies, I'd be more than happy to play wherever he wants me to play."

Asked what Cheika wants his role to be at the moment, more or less in a finishing capacity, Tui said: "He just wants me to bring some impact off the bench. It's a new role for me coming off the bench. When you're doing it for your country, it's something you don't take for granted. On my game, he wants me to get my hands on the ball as much as I can because that is something I always look forward to doing. Just being physical and being error-free."

Tui underwent a baptism of fire in South Africa, making his debut on the Highveld in tough conditions with two carries and an early offload in his introduction to the international arena.

Now he has made it, Tui said he is determined to break into the Wallabies starting XV.

"It was real good to be able to get the opportunity to don the green and gold," Tui said. "It was pretty surreal. I went out there and it was good to get that experience and be out there with the boys and with guys I never imagined I'd be alongside. Hopefully I can get the opportunity this week.

"Now I've got a little taste it's really motivated me to really try and consistently be in the [match-day] 23 and to hopefully crack the starting XV. Seeing [Reds teammate] Izack [Rodda] there is good. I'm very happy for him and very proud of him. It's credit to his hard work and what he's done for the season for the Reds. Hopefully I can replicate that."

This story Wallaby youngster hopes versatility works in his favour first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.