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Five Australian players to watch at JWC

By Ben Smith

With the JWC just around the corner in France, RugbyPass looks at five standout candidates to keep an eye on from Australia. The JWC has launched a number of careers since its inception in 2008 and this year will be no different. 

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Isaac Lucas – Flyhalf

 Isaac Lucas is the younger brother of Brumbies halfback Matt Lucas and Queensland Reds halfback Ben Lucas. His other brother Tom also plays for the Australian Sevens team. To say rugby is in the genes is an understatement, and the word is Isaac is the best prospect of them all.

The flyhalf has all the skills to excel at the Junior World Cup, with natural attacking flair to boot. His footwork gives him a different edge at 10 but his passing and kicking can control a game and organise structure. He will battle fellow Queenslander Lawson Creighton for the 10 jersey but Lucas could also fill a second playmaker/distributor role at 12.

Len Ikitau – Centre

Ikitau was a superb schoolboy centre in 2016 for Brisbane Boys College but missed out that year on selection in the Australian schools. He was born in Australia but grew up in New Zealand, surprisingly making him an All Blacks supporter. That will have to change soon as he pursues a career towards a Wallabies jersey.

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He makes great backdoor reads in defence and can put on a vicious shot – reminiscent of the way Malakai Fekitoa’s rush defence would close down play on the edge for the Highlanders. The classy centre has shifty footwork to square defenders and breakaway speed to run around them. A chance to trial with the ACT Brumbies in pre-season brought him down to Canberra where he will pursue a Super Rugby contract.

Australia’s other centre options Jordan Petaia (Reds) and Semisi Tupou (Rebels) are also quality options having already played Super Rugby but a breakout JWC campaign could definitely put Ikitau on the map.

Rob Valetini – Number 8/Blindside

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 Returning loose forward Rob Valetini is primed to make a big impact on the JWC stage, having played in last year’s tournament.

The Melbourne-raised product played in the domestic NRC at just 17-years old while a schoolboy. The opportunity came up to move to the Brumbies on an EPS contract after school. They liked what potential they saw and signed him to a two-year full time Super Rugby contract in 2017.

He suffered an injury in Round 1 of Super Rugby against the Sunwolves and after months on the sidelines, Valetini will have a point to prove.

Update: Valetini suffered a second medial ligament tear recently and will no longer be apart of the World Rugby under-20’s championship campaign for Australia.  

Fraser McReight – Openside

McReight is a Brisbane schoolboy product who is a prototype openside fetcher with a high work rate.

He started against New Zealand at 7 in the Oceania warm-up games indicating he is highly regarded by the selectors. He could be an integral piece for Australia in defence and at the breakdown. He won’t win awards for flashy play but will provide issues for the opposition. He is outstanding over the ball and could be a defensive trump card for Australia.

Trevor Hosea – Lock

Trevor Hosea is a special athlete who stands at a towering 2.02m and is 110kg. The dynamic lock can be used as a quasi-loose forward and cause damage on the fringes as a runner.

He was a standout for the Australian Schoolboys in the test last year and was picked up by the Melbourne Rebels while still at school. Despite attending Brisbane Boys College, he is local Victorian product who moved north to further his studies at a prominent rugby school.

He could pack down alongside Angus Blythe, another giant teenager to form a formidable second row for Australia.

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