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Five potential Wallabies bolters who fit Joe Schmidt's criteria

By John Ferguson
Miles Amatosero of the NSW Waratahs and Josh Canham of the Rebels. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images/Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

At the start of a Rugby World Cup cycle now is a good time for new talent to begin trickling into the national set-up, so that continuity and cohesion can be fostered at the highest level for the 2027 home World Cup.

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However, new does not mean young, inexperienced or untested, it means just that, new.

Players who have never donned the Wallaby gold, but who may have 50 plus Super Rugby caps to their name of any age.

The adage ‘if you’re old enough, you’re good enough’ is often used for the raw talent of a 19-year-old outside back, but this script must change if Australian rugby is to begin trending in the right direction.

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Before naming these five Wallabies bolters, it is important to remember what head coach Joe Schmidt is looking for.

“Being competitive one week hasn’t necessarily materialised into being competitive the next week,” Schmidt told reporters in Sydney in Sydney during the release of Wallaby tickets.

“I think driving that consistency of performance is massively important… you don’t have to be too far off to suddenly not be on the right side of the ledger at the end of the game.”

Previously Schmidt has cited work-rate, technical proficiency, and rugby nous to be pillars of what he considers to be desirable Wallaby traits.

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Talent on the other hand he called “fickle,” it’s the kind of approach and language which is at great odds with that of Eddie Jones this time last year.

So, without further ado, here are the five Super Rugby players that fit the mould for Schmidt’s Wallabies.

Ryan Smith (Queensland Reds)
58 Super Rugby caps – 2 Australia A caps

At 27, Smith is the perfect age for a lock to make the move into the international arena.

His age, awareness of his body and the experience he has under his belt gives him a great foundation to handle the step up to Test-level.

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It’s often something which is understated in rugby conversations and with Super Rugby Pacific only now finding its feet, the step up to international is considerable.

Smith has two Joe Schmidt shaped ticks in his ledger, they are work ethic and consistency.

Smith has made the third most successful tackles in the competition (165), no other second rower is even close.

He sits fifth for lineout wins and seventh for lineout steals and amongst his tackle stats, he regularly makes tackles resulting in a turnover.

He has upped his carrying capacity for the Reds in recent weeks, but Smith’s true talent lies in being an excellent enabler.

His work rate in cleaning attacking rucks in which he is amongst the highest in the comp for is something the Wallabies have struggled with in recent years.

In short, picking Smith wouldn’t be a gamble, it would be a safe bet because despite him being a ‘short’ for an international lock at 197cm he has the nous to put his height and 117kgs to the best use.

Simply put, for a man in the engine room, he will never stop providing the grunt at the coal face.

Miles Amatosero (NSW Waratahs)
43 premier level caps

While raw talent is not what Schmidt is looking for, there are just some qualities you just can’t let sit by the wayside.

Amatosero has been dubbed ‘mini Skelton’ for his unique size, standing at 203cm tall and tipping the scales at 125kgs.

The raw materials are there for a Test level lock, and although he is young, he is the type of talent which could learn a great deal from the coaches now running the Wallabies, he just needs to be managed correctly.

He has only gotten better as the Super season has gone on and he is now showing the brutal physicality which earned him 32 caps for French Top 14 side Clermont.

If he continues to perform, he could be a great understudy to his namesake Will Skelton.

If Skelton returns later in the year, he could help Amatosero flourish in the areas where perhaps he didn’t in his earlier years in Australian rugby.

While it does not seem wise to call the young giant into the matchday 23 in the July internationals, some showings during the autumn series may be timely.

A Wallaby second row pool of Amatosero, Skelton with a Nick Frost, Darcey Swain, Izack Rodda, Josh Canham and Smith all in the mixer when the British and Irish Lions come down under in 2025, would be worthy of the price of admission itself.

Corey Toole (ACT Brumbies)
23 Super Rugby Pacific caps – 2 Australia A caps

The man affectionately known as the ‘Roadrunner’ would likely be the fastest Wallabies player since perhaps ‘Rocket’ Rod Davies.

Simply put, the speedster can do things which others can’t and often does what defies logic.

You can’t coach speed and Toole has it in spades, he also has a well-rounded game having come from the Sevens circuit.

There is a question surrounding his size of 178cm and 85kgs, but some of the greatest wingers in world rugby have been and are the smallest players on the pitch.

The winger has made 11 line breaks and beaten 25 players and is one of the highest try scorers in the competition.

Although there are still a plethora of rostered on Wallaby wingers around, the unique talents of Toole seem too special to ignore.

Despite not having played too many SRP games, his time on the international Sevens circuit has given him a wealth of experience and he will know what it takes at the next level.

Josh Canham (Melbourne Rebels)
31 Super Rugby Pacific caps

If you look at the locking landscape there are really three main types: the bruisers like a Brodie Rettalick, the generals like Sam Whitelock, and the behemoths like Will Skelton.

Josh Canham is very much a bruiser and at age 23, Canham has similar dimensions to Wallaby Nick Frost, but Canham’s attitude is what sets him apart and helps offset his youthful frame.

Australia’s established locking stocks are a coin toss between healthy and shaky depending on which pundit you ask.

The older generation of Rodda, Neville, Skelton need the inbetweeners like Smith, Frost, Swain to step-up and take responsibility.

For the youngsters of Canham and Amatosero their role will be to watch and learn until Schmidt feels their energy and enthusiasm can no longer be contained.

The autumn series looks like an opportune moment to reward a youngster who has had a couple of seasons of promising and improving form.

Dylan Pietsch (NSW Waratahs)
34 Super Rugby Pacific caps – 4 Australia A caps

Outside back talent is not something Australia is in short supply of.

Year-on-year, stellar talents with speed, elusive running, and great vertical leaps appear throughout the Super sides.

However, they don’t come much tougher than the 26-year-old Pietsch.

His strength in the tackle, his piercing running lines, and solid defence has seen him become a consistent performer and threat for the Waratahs.

One detraction on the flyer is that he lacks the finer details when finishing.

He has been seen to be unaware of the sideline, not holding the ball in the opposite hand to oncoming traffic when scoring and has lacked a solid dive when forced into the corner.

All these things can be learned under Schmidt, but he has the body of work and physicality to slot right into Test match rugby.

It is not to be forgotten that Pietsch has also spent time on the Sevens circuit which is where he made a name for himself as a physical player.

His experience across the iterations and levels put him in good stead for test-match rugby.

And finally, a quick aside to young gun Max Jorgensen.

The 19-year-old has already been part of a Wallabies World Cup camp but fell foul of significant injuries during training.

Furthermore, he has already had some significant injuries this year.

Just like Amatosero, Jorgensen must be managed carefully and perhaps the autumn series after a good training block and some more Shute Shield games can he be set free to run riot in Europe.

 

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Comments

6 Comments
M
Mzilikazi 34 days ago

Interesting that you pick Amatosero, John. I would agree with your choice. He could well be capped this year at some point.

At only 21 years of age, he has a lot of experience at a high level from his time at Clermont. I’m surprised he did not remain there for longer, as last year he was really starting to move, with 14 games, six starts, well up from the previous year, 7 games, only 2 starts. Have liked what is doing with the Waratahs this year. Not an easy situation for any player there, with the poor results.

D
David 34 days ago

Joe's picks will be more interesting than Razors. The dumping of Dave Rennie for Jones has to be one of the worst exec decisions of all time. Joe and Dave have similar styles and personalities, the players should like that. Predicting some success for Aus this year. Well more than last year!

j
john 34 days ago

All good choices John, even the Tah players ha ha.
Others that might be worth a look would be ;
Cale, Tom Lynagh, Uru, Keunzle, Anstee and maybe Rory Scott because we need a backup to McReight and he has improved a lot from last year and Tim Ryan.

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