New Western Force recruit Bill Meakes says he had a dream welcome party upon his return to Australia – a Wallabies dress rehearsal.
Meakes couldn’t even get a look-in at Australia’s five Super Rugby franchises a few years ago, so he set sail for England to try his luck there.
After impressing for lower-league club Clifton, Meakes earned a deal at Gloucester, where he continued to flourish under former Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher.
The Force caught wind of Meakes’ vast improvement, and signed the 25-year-old on a two-year deal.
And just weeks after landing back in Australia, Meakes was whisked into the Wallabies’ extended training squad in July.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was keen to get a first-hand look at Meakes – and all this before the powerful centre had even played a minute of Super Rugby.
“It was all pretty random and off the cuff,” Meakes said on Tuesday.
“Cheika just called me pretty much straight away when I arrived. He said he’d been following my progress overseas, and just wanted to welcome me back home and have a look at me and see how I was going.
“It was a great experience, and definitely an eye opener to what it’s like at the next level, and how much work I need to do to get there.
“It was one of the best weeks I’ve ever had of training.”
Whilst representing the Wallabies remains the ultimate dream for Meakes, he knows he faces a major fight just to establish himself in a new-look Force set-up.
“A Super Rugby cap is the stepping stone to that.
“For now, I’ve just got to cement myself in this squad, and hopefully things will take care of itself.”
Meakes still had a year to run on his Gloucester contract, but Fisher granted him an early release so he could chase his Wallabies dream.
The former Australia U20s and Sevens representative said his move to England helped spark his career.
“It was a huge learning curve,” Meakes said.
“But in saying that, it’s made me twice the player I was before I left.”
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