AAP Rugby

Hardwick gets serious says Rebels coach

By AAP Newswire

Melbourne Rebels coach Dave Wessels is excited about what Richard Hardwick will bring to this Super Rugby season, saying the "penny's dropped" for the talented young flanker.

The 25-year-old will get a true test of his ambitions when he lines up against Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper in Friday night's round three clash with the Waratahs at AAMI Park.

Originally with the Western Force, there were high hopes for Hardwick when he played two Tests just a year after making his Super Rugby debut.

But the 102kg weapon never really kicked on, with ongoing injuries limiting him to just 19 appearances since joining the Rebels in 2018.

But Wessels said he'd been impressed by Hardwick's improved attitude and fitness, rewarding him with the No.7 jersey against the Tahs.

They see his ability to pressure the ball carrier and force turnovers as key to cracking their first win of the season.

There's also a vacancy in the Wallabies ranks following the retirement from international rugby of star on-baller David Pocock.

Wessels said Hardwick had made changes to his lifestyle and eradicated his "bad habits" and the results were clear.

"Dicky is a hell of a nice guy but I think if he's honest with himself he hasn't always prepared in a way that's been professional," Wessels said.

"I called him in a couple of weeks ago and asked him what's changed because he's a totally different guy now.

"He's conditioning, his fitness testing, is just totally different to where it's been in the past so I think the penny's dropped for him.

"You can't be professional some of the time, you're either a professional rugby player or you're not.

"There's no shortage of talent with Dicky and I'm just so pleased for him that he's starting to come good on some of that talent because of the work he's putting in behind the scenes."