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End-of-year player grades: How the Wallabies debutants rated in 2020

By Finn Morton

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The Wallabies’ season came to a disappointing end on Saturday, drawing 16-all with Los Pumas in Sydney. It was their third draw of the year too, from six matches played.


But the Wallabies can still take plenty of positives out of the test season, with new coach Dave Rennie selecting 16-uncapped players in his first test squad, with 10 going on to make their debuts. While there was a varying success from each debutant, here’s how each player rated after their first season in green and gold.


Filipo Daugunu: B-

Appearances: 5
Wallaby number: 931

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Coach Dave Rennie and captain Michael Hooper reflect on the Wallabies’ 16-all draw with the Pumas in Sydney.
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Coach Dave Rennie and captain Michael Hooper reflect on the Wallabies’ 16-all draw with the Pumas in Sydney.

Throughout Super Rugby AU, Daugunu went from strength to strength. His form simply couldn’t be ignored, so it wasn’t a surprise to see him selected in the squad and then handed his debut in the opening test of the year.

Against the All Blacks in Wellington, Daugunu ran for a game-high 138 metres off 14 carries, having beaten three defenders and made four-line breaks.


But a poor performance in Sydney saw him lose his grasp on the starting spot, which would go to Tom Wright for the remainder of the test season.


Still, his impact off the bench is intriguing, and he’s no doubt a player who’ll be a useful part of the Wallabies backline moving forward.

Hunter Paisami: B

Appearances: 6
Wallaby number: 932

Paisami’s journey to Wallaby gold hasn’t always been easy, but may be one of the best stories of persistence that the sport has seen.

After moving to Brisbane from Melbourne in 2019, Paisami spent some time living in his agents’ office.

Now he’s a Wallaby.


Paisami was a standout in attack throughout the Tri Nations, and stepped up as a playmaker in the 15-all draw with the Pumas in Newcastle. But his tackle accuracy is an issue, having missed nine throughout the competition.

It’s worth noting that his combination with Jordan Petaia has to be seen as a long-term option for the national side.

Harry Wilson: A-

Appearances: 6
Wallaby number: 933

Wilson has been among the standouts for the Wallabies this year, seemingly securing his hold on the golden number eight jersey for the foreseeable future.

Fans and pundits alike have been singing Wilson’s praises since his Reds debut, going onto have a standout Super Rugby campaign this year.

The up-and-comer was a standout for his State for his work rate, and that’s carried over into the test arena. In the Tri Nations, he was among the leaders for the most carries in the competition with 36. While it would be wrong to not mention his physicality and toughness in defence as well, he did come under scrutiny in the first two Bledisloe Cup tests in New Zealand for late hits on Richie Mo’unga and then Beauden Barrett.

Still, having only turned 21 last month, Wilson has quickly become much more than a player ofthe future, and is instead a key part of the Wallabies already.

Noah Lolesio: C

Appearances: 2
Wallaby number: 934

Lolesio had one of the toughest debuts that I’ve ever seen, having been named to start against an increasingly confident All Blacks outfit in Sydney.

While that match didn’t go to plan, we know the 20-year-old can play.

He was a standout in the Super Rugby AU final, and his cameo off the bench in the Brisbane test helped the Wallabies close out the match.

It’d be fair to say that Lolesio probably got his first start earlier than he expected, but he had been named to come off the bench in the opening Bledisloe as well. While he didn’t shine in the Wallabies jersey during his rookie international season, trust me when I say that those performances are coming.

Irae Simone: C

Appearances: 2
Wallaby number: 935

Simone was one of the more impressive players in Super Rugby AU, really stepping up as a playmaker and as a leader once Noah Lolesio went down injured early on in the tournament.

Named to make his test debut against the All Blacks in Sydney, the Inside Centre failed to really control the match like he had for the Brumbies. He was selected off the bench for his second cap against the Pumas in Sydney, but he struggled to make an impact then as well.

He’s a player who could potentially add some depth to the Wallabies setup moving forward, and he would be useful, but it would seem that Matt To’omua and Hunter Paisami have control over the 12 jersey.

Tate McDermott: B-

Appearances: 2
Wallaby number: 936

McDermott is simply a generational talent, and it’s a shame we didn’t see more of him for the Wallabies this year.

In his two tests, he came on and really brought a unique skillset to close test matches. He’s known for his pace and ability to snipe around the ruck, but his work rate and Rugby IQ was also impressive.

It may not be next year but I fully expect McDermott to be the starting scrumhalf for the Wallabies going, certainly in time for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

Fraser McReight: N/A

Appearances: 1
Wallaby number: 937

When McReight came off the bench for his test debut, he played with plenty of passion and enthusiasm, which caught my eye. But his limited minutes off the bench, as well as the lopsided scoreline, meant there wasn’t enough time to give him a fair rating.

The two-time Australian under-20s player of the year is certainly one for the future, so if he can have another strong season with the Queensland Reds, expect to see more of Fraser McReight in the Wallabies setup.

Lachlan Swinton: N/A

Appearances: 1
Wallaby number: 938

Swinton was actually really impressive in test debut, before he became the first debutant in Australian rugby history to be sent off. He’s a physical player and he brought that to the test arena, making sure that every opponent felt each of his tackles.

Considering he only played 35-minutes and got sent off, he showed that he belongs in international rugby. Still, I didn’t think it was fair to give him a rating.

Tom Wright: B

Appearances: 3
Wallaby number: 939

After watching the first three tests of the year from the sideline, Wright took his opportunity to debut in Brisbane with both hands. The former NRL player scored two-minutes into his test debut, and was generally effective in that match as well.

Wright has impressed with his pace and Rugby IQ in his three tests, running for four clean breaks in the Tri Nations. His work rate has also been quite impressive, and hasn’t done his chances of retaining his spot week-to-week any harm with his performances.

Angus Bell: B-

Appearances: 3
Wallaby number: 940

Angus Bell might just be one of the more promising talents to have made his debut for the national side.

In his three tests of the bench, the 20-year-old was reliable at the set-piece and did what was asked of him in attack, defence and around the breakdown. There was plenty of passion shown by the youngster, and it’ll be exciting to see just how much he can improve in the years ahead.


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