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Tuesday Aug 10, 2021

Boozing ban won't slow down Koroibete as he's tipped for return

All is seemingly forgiven with the Wallabies set to welcome back sinning superstar Marika Koroibete for Saturday’s do-or-die Bledisloe Cup clash with the All Blacks in Auckland.

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Dropped alongside forwards Isi Naisarani and Pone Fa’amausili for a late-night drinking session, Koroibete is likely to be rushed straight back into Australia’s starting line-up with trans-Tasman bragging rights for another year on the line.

Andrew Kellaway impressed on his Wallabies run-on debut in last Saturday’s 33-25 defeat.

But with the Wallabies down 1-0 in the series and needing to win the remaining two Tests to avoid the Bledisloe Cup remaining in New Zealand for an 18th consecutive year, coach Dave Rennie is tipped to recall his strike winger at Kellaway’s expense.

And that’s fine by Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who said after angering teammates in the squad by breaking curfew the trio had been dealt with and served sufficient punishment.

RELATED: Rugby Australia deal with another alcohol issue after 7s team’s behaviour

“Guys like Marika and those other boys, they’ve worked hard over the past week and a bit. As a playing group, (we feel) they’re good men who made poor decisions and we know that,” the lock said on Tuesday.

“We’ve been building this culture for the best part of two years now under Dave and his guidance and we have no problem with telling each other off or poking each other in the chest.

“Marika works extremely hard and everyone knows that. I’m sure the fans know that at home, how hard he works, so you could only imagine how gutted he was.

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“So for us as a playing group, we accept their apology.”

Salakaia-Loto didn’t believe Koroibete, who is bound for Japan at year’s end, would use his ban as any sort of spur for a big game.

“Marika, you see every game that he plays, he treats it like his last,” he said.

“So if he gets the opportunity this week, he’ll be exactly the same as what he’s been in the past. He’s been one of our best players that we’ve had.”

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But the Wallabies know it will take more than Koroibete to break their 35-year losing streak at Eden Park.

The Wallabies conceded their first four lineouts at the burial ground last week to gift the All Blacks precious possession and improving the set-piece is imperative.

“You can’t win games if you don’t have the ball,” Salakaia-Loto said.

“We were in good parts of the field and those are the opportunities that we’ve got to take. We put ourselves in those parts of the field and, as a forward pack, we let our backs down.

“As locks and as a forward pack, we pride ourselves on our lineout and our scrum and especially on the maul. For us, we took that on the chin, we reviewed it and we’ll make some fixes and make sure we’re better for it this week.”

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