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Leinster in the past as Douglas looks towards Wallabies' World Cup semi-final

The 26-year-old lock has a strong relationship with Michael Cheika.

Murray Kinsella reports from London

FIVE SHORT MONTHS ago, the Rugby World Cup wasn’t even a possibility for Kane Douglas, but now the lock is set to start in Australia’s semi-final against Argentina on Sunday in Twickenham.

Having secured an early release from his Leinster contract in July, the 26-year-old has forced his way back into the Wallabies’ starting side and his performances at the World Cup so far have pleased head coach Michael Cheika.

AustraliaÕs Kane Douglas Douglas is preparing for a World Cup semi-final. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Douglas and Cheika previously worked together at the Waratahs, winning the 2014 Super Rugby title, before the second row accepted Leinster’s offer of a two-year deal and walked away from the Wallabies after only 13 Test caps.

“Yeah, it was tough, but it was a big decision to leave and a big decision to come back,” said the bearded lock yesterday in Australia’s World Cup base at the Lensbury Hotel in Teddington. ”But I haven’t regretted any decision I’ve made.”

Douglas said he “sort of ruled myself out” of the World Cup with the transfer to Leinster, but Cheika remained in contact with a player whom he greatly rated.

“I thought he was going to take an AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) out on me because I kept ringing him up to the minute he left,” said Cheika yesterday.

Then we got to a period where I figured he’d finally rejected me fully, so I cried for a while and then I didn’t ring him back. I sort of had another rough shot at it towards the end, there was a few issues for Kane to think about as well and it worked out.

“It shows how rugby competitors can work together on a lot of issues because it shows there’s people involved. People’s feelings and what they want to do, between us and with Leinster – a club that I know well – and with Kane being pretty straight-up, a professional approach from Mick Dawson and the team over there, we were able to get this outcome.

“It’s been validated, Kane’s played very well and earned his spot back in the team. It’s a competitive area for us now and I’m sure he’ll keep that form going to keep that spot in the team.”

AustraliaÕs Kane Douglas and Sam Warburton general view lineout Douglas has been keeping Sam Carter out of the XV. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Douglas smiled at Chieka’s suggestion that he had been on the phone non-stop in a bid to convince the second row to return to his homeland earlier than first expected. Douglas reiterated yesterday that his move back to Australia was mainly down to family reasons, with his fiancée expecting their first child.

“It wasn’t as much as he said, eh? He just played it up as a bit of a story,” said Douglas of Cheika’s contact. “But, he talked to me early days when he first started in charge of the Wallabies.

“He stopped because he thought there’d be no chance and I got in contact with them towards the end, when I wanted to come home. It was more for me and the family stuff, I wanted to come home.

He was sort of in the dark until I was going and, when I was going to Ireland, he was very supportive and said ‘at least you’re going to a good club’. He was trying to tell me where to live and all the rest when I got there.

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“When he got the Wallabies job, he started talking to me a bit but, yeah, I like having him as a coach but it was more of a personal decision and I’m just happy to be here now.”

Douglas never looked entirely comfortable or happy during his single season with Leinster, failing to show the kind of form that has Cheika backing him as a World Cup second row.

One of the complications with his rise back into the Wallabies’ starting XV was the fact that he had to recover from back surgery in April, when a significant disc issue was resolved.

AustraliaÕs Kane Douglas The Wallabies blitzed England in Twickenham. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I was a few kilos overweight when I came back. I hadn’t played in a while so I had to work hard and get up to speed on things,” said Douglas. “It’s all been good though; they gave me a start against the USA (in the RWC warm-ups) and I needed 80 minutes under my belt.

“I was struggling out there in that game and I felt better for it. It’s just good to be back in the mix, there’s good competition. Even Sam Carter, I feel for him because he’s trained so hard. You’d back anyone in our team to do the job.

“If I didn’t get picked one week, I’d back Sam to do the job. There’s good competition.”

Douglas watched on last weekend as some of his former teammates were part of Ireland’s defeat to Argentina, and though he feels empathy for them, he pointed out that knock-out rugby is always cruel to one of the teams involved.

They lost a few key players, they went well the whole tournament,” said Douglas. “I’ve a few mates who’ll be disappointed, but that’s life.”

Douglas has been surprised by the dominant performances of Southern Hemisphere teams against their Northern rivals, and is disappointed that it’s not the Irish that the Wallabies face this weekend.

“The different teams have different strengths, but it was good footie playing in the European games and in the Six Nations,” said Douglas.

“It’s a good brand of footy, it is surprising and you can’t fit more than four teams in the semis. It’s all Southern Hemisphere teams, but I think especially Ireland – I really like watching Ireland play and they’ll be disappointed not being here.”

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Murray Kinsella

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