McCalman faces local tests for Wallabies selection
March 31, 2014
McCalman rose through the rugby ranks in 2010 to make his debut in the gold No.8 jersey © Getty Images
Wallabies selections may still be months away, but Ben McCalman believes his trial for the gold jersey began the minute he stepped on the park for Western Force's first match of the season. With Ben Mowen signalling his intention to leave Australian rugby, McCalman - who has been a fringe player for several years - has been given another chance.
The 29-Test back-rower faces heavy competition for the No.8 spot, but he gets his chance to prove himself further when the Force take on Queensland Reds with Jake Schatz, New South Wales Waratahs with Wycliff Palu and Melbourne Rebels with Scott Higginbotham in consecutive matches from Saturday. McCalman has worn the Test No.8 jersey only once since the 2011 end-of-year tour, the 26-year-old says Wallabies gold is still his goal and his Super Rugby form this season has seen him take high ranking in the inaugural Greg Growden Medal count.
"It's certainly a goal for me, but I think the biggest thing for me at this stage is the next three games - the local derbies," McCalman told ESPNscrum. "The Reds, Waratahs and Rebels are the next three games; they're obviously very important games and I'm hoping to make an impression for that No.8 jersey.
"There are certainly similarities [between myself, Schatz, Palu and Higginbothom]; it's a very contested position. Out the back of the scrum, there are certain skills that are required; we just need to control the ball and are generally seen as a player the team looks to to carry the ball forward and get that momentum and hold a presence on the field."
McCalman made his Test debut in 2010, when he took the field in the No.8 jersey for four Tri-Nations tests and four starts on the end-of-year tour, and he continued to enjoy success when he took the field through the 2011 Rugby World Cup. After a disappointing 2012 - when he missed selection altogether - and 2013 - when he was selected on the bench - he believes playing in a successful team can help his selection prospects.
"I think that [selection] is just something that comes from success through the team [Western Force], and also an individual thing as well," McCalman told ESPN. "It's certainly a lot easier to play in a team where everyone is on the same page and everyone's playing well, which helps my game as well."
"Through the season there are things I'm always trying to work and build on; at this stage to be honest my main focus is just the next three games, really just the local games, especially the Reds next weekend. Coming off our bye, that makes us really confident moving into that."
McCalman has been a Western Force stalwart and believes his game has improved with the winning team © Getty Images
Ben McCalman talks about the rising Western Force in an exclusive interview with ESPNscrum on Thursday
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