Cummins hungry for ‘meat pies’ to keep streak alive
Australia have not lost a test when the frizzy-haired 26-year-old has scored and his sixth try in his 13th match last week helped the Wallabies to a dominant 50-23 win over Les Bleus in Brisbane.
With the hosts bidding for a sixth successive win at Docklands Stadium, cult hero Cummins, beloved of Australian fans for his quotable quotes as much as his slick finishing skills, is feeling the pressure to keep scoring.
“Yeah, bloody oath. I’ll have to pick me game up and hopefully get a bit more on Saturday,” he told reporters in his heavy Australian vernacular.
Cummins, who sports a porn-star moustache and a pair of bulging eyes, has become something of a YouTube sensation for littering post-match interviews with colloquial similes all but unintelligible to non-Australians.
Cummins refers to tries as ‘meat pies’ in rhyming slang and has variously described himself or other players as ‘tough as a woodpecker’s lips’ and ‘being mad as a tree full of galahs’.
The self-given nickname was inspired by seeing the fierce, carnivorous animal coming out on top in a scrap with a lion on a TV documentary.
Cummins also feels pressure to churn out the lines, not only from TV producers, but also from his team mates, who now set themselves up as willing straight men.
Inside centre Matt Toomua was at it on Thursday, egging Cummins on from the sidelines before a news conference.
“I’m due for a few more (tries) on Aussie soil,” Cummins said. “Old Mattie will be busy out there and hopefully he can get me a bit of ball.
“How busy will I be, Cummo?” Toomua asked helpfully.
“You’ll probably be as busy as a one-legged man in a bum-kicking competition,” was the winger’s reply.
“I sort of consider myself a bit of a morale booster,” Cummins explained later.
“Whatever, whether it’s a pack of lollies or something just to boost the boys’ morale. And that relates into the game. I try to be a good influence and keep it high-energy.
“Whatever it is, I’ve probably got to keep doing it.”
A team riven by ill-discipline and reports of rifts between junior and senior players under former coach Robbie Deans a year ago, now presents a far more relaxed air under the New Zealander’s replacement Ewen McKenzie.
Winning consistently has undoubtedly helped take the heat off both the Wallabies and McKenzie after a torrid start in last year’s southern hemisphere Rugby Championship, when the team were subjected to harrowing back-to-back defeats by the world champion All Blacks.
Fierce but healthy competition for places in the Wallabies squad has also been a factor.
After years of being pilloried as the weak conference in the southern hemisphere Super Rugby competition, Australian teams have performed well against their New Zealand and South African opponents, leaving McKenzie with more depth in his squad and refreshing selection dilemmas.
The former test prop has duly sought to reward form over reputation, which has meant dumping world class scrumhalf Will Genia from the side and given more opportunities to less established players like Cummins and Toomua.
ACT Brumbies back Toomua made his test debut as flyhalf against the All Blacks last year in place of long-serving playmaker Quade Cooper, but the composed 24-year-old now finds himself at inside centre, shutting out the explosive Kurtley Beale, a 40-cap Wallaby, from the starting side.
“It’s something you’re aware of but you can’t overthink it too much,” said Toomua, mindful of his internal rivalry with the highly versatile Beale.
“It’s hard. We’ve got a lot of talent in the backs… It also shows how much you have to be performing each week so you see the flip side of that. While it’s great to be there, you know that ‘Link’ (McKenzie) will swap it if you’re not in form.”
Australia lead the three-test series 1-0. The series wraps up in Sydney next week.
(Editing by John O’Brien)