Wallabies back-rower Langi Gleeson is grateful national coach Eddie Jones “tells it like it is” or he might not have been selected in Australia’s Rugby World Cup squad.
Gleeson’s fitness was questioned in March by Jones, who said if he was picking his World Cup team at the time, the Waratahs forward would not have been selected.
Essentially given an ultimatum by a no-nonsense Jones, Gleeson responded by improving and shining for NSW in this year’s Super Rugby Pacific competition.
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He was rewarded with a place in Australia’s World Cup squad and came off the bench in the Wallabies’ first game of the tournament in a 35-15 win over Georgia in Paris last weekend.
“The good thing about Eddie is that he says it like it is – he says what he thinks,” Langi, 22, said.
“It’s good. As a rugby player you have to be told what you’re not good at and what you’re good at.
“Fitness was a big part, especially in Super Rugby, how fast it is today. It’s something I’ve been working on and it’s something Eddie and the coaches have helped me with.
“I feel like I’m ready to go now. Growing up, I always wanted to be a Wallaby, (but) I didn’t think I’d really get there.
“Everything has been a blur, especially this year and last year. I just try to stay grounded and train as hard as I can.”
The World Cup will take on extra significance for Gleeson on Monday morning (AEST) when the Wallabies take on Fiji in Saint-Étienne.
Gleeson is among a host of Wallabies with Fijian heritage, the others being Mark Nawaqanitawase, Marika Koroibete, Suliasi Vunivalu, Samu Kerevi, Rob Valetini and Issak Fines-Leleiwasa.
“It’s the second team I go to,” he said.
“My family also supports them. I don’t know who they’re going to support when we play them this week.”
Fiji will be desperate for a win after a 32-26 Group C opener loss to Wales.
“It’s just about executing your set-up and stopping their dropouts, which is what they’re really good at,” Gleeson said.
“They’re really big bodies, so you have to fight low.
Gleeson also called for an 80-minute Wallabies performance, rather than just playing well in patches.
“It’s something we’ve struggled with in past games. We understand it is a problem, but we will solve it this week,” he said.
“We’re going to start fast and finish fast this week.”
Gleeson was hoping for more playing time against Fiji but preached “team first”.
“First of all, it’s all about the team. If Eddie wants it, Eddie will get it,” he said.
“I’m fine if I don’t play or I don’t play. As long as I give it back to the team, that’s what matters.”
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