Five uncapped prospects putting their hands up for a Wallabies debut
Super Rugby AU is already four rounds in, and has delivered some matches which will go down in the history books as all-time classics. Last weekends Grand Final rematch between the Brumbies and the Reds is just one game that stands out.
But from all the Australian Super Rugby we’ve seen so far this year, there are a number of internationally uncapped prospects who now potentially sit on the cusp of international honours.
There are young players who have stepped up and filled the shoes of some of the giants of Australian rugby, while other more familiar faces are arguably on the brink of donning Wallaby gold.
Last year, 16 uncapped players were named in Dave Rennie’s first Wallabies squad, with 10 going on to make their test debuts. Harry Wilson was a revelation, Noah Lolesio showed plenty of promise, and Hunter Paisami looked like he’d been playing at that level for years.
Here are the five players who are arguably ready to make their Wallabies test debuts.
Hooker, Queensland Reds
I can’t believe Alex Mafi hasn’t played a test match yet – considering how he’s played this year, Mafi has arguably been the in-form hooker of Super Rugby AU.
Mafi was impressive in round one against the Waratahs, crossing for a try.
The 24-year-old backed that up with a double the week after against the Rebels, in what was arguably a player of the match performance. He ran the equal-most metres of any Reds player and was accurate with all 12 of his lineout throws.
On that, Mafi definitely deserves some credit for how the Reds lineout has performed so far this year.
After he threw perfectly against the Waratahs, the Reds ended up going 15 from 20. But over their last two games, the team has had an accuracy of 95%.
Mafi has really stepped up in place of Brandon Paenga-Amosa, who missed the first two games of the Reds’ season with an injury. While the Wallabies hooker is back in action, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him continue to play backup to Mafi for the time being.
The Waratahs have had a tough first three games to open their new season. Fielding a young side, they’ve lost all three matches by a combined points differential of -89, including a loss to the previously winless Western Force.
But the Waratahs have still managed to blood plenty of exciting talent, and unearth a player who looks set for higher honours.
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Carlo Tizzano had big shoes to fill coming into this campaign, having been named to start in the number seven jersey for their season opener. When he ran out onto Suncorp Stadium in that jersey, he was filling a hole left by a player who already deserves legend status.
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper won’t play for the Waratahs in 2021, as he’s currently plying his trade in Japan’s Top League.
But despite any pressure that may have been on Tizzano ahead of this season, he’s performed to a very high standard.
His work rate has been exceptional and has seen the 21-year-old standout. He’s made the most tackles of any Tahs player in each of their three matches, including 25 made against the Reds and 26 against the Force.
Tizzano also had the most runs of any Waratahs player in round one, and the second-most carries of any Tahs player the week after.
He’s an exciting up-and-coming talent who seems more than ready to challenge for a spot in Dave Rennie’s Wallabies plans, in a position which has plenty of depth already.
Over the past two rounds in particular, he’s really made his case for higher honours heard.
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Lee-Warner was arguably one of the top three performers from round three, having made the most carries (17) and made the most tackles (19) of any Force player that week. But he more than backed it up a week after.
His work rate again did the talking, making a round-high 17 tackles, while also having 13 carries (which was a team-high).
Lee-Warner would also bring versatility into the Wallabies squad, which is never a bad thing. He can play both lock and on the side of the scrum, which could make him a useful inclusion in a matchday squad.
Australian rugby has plenty of depth when it comes to its outside backs, but going off 2021 form, Mackenzie Hansen is another player who has well and truly thrown his hat into the ring.
There are other uncapped wingers such as Suliasi Vunivalu also fighting for a spot, but Hansen’s form has been impressive – there’s no doubt about that. I’ll also consider Andy Muirhead to be a bolter, a player who is consistently a high performer for the Brumbies.
Hansen scored 15 points in round two, which was more than the combined team total of the Waratahs that night. A winger’s core job is to score tries and he showed that he’s capable of exactly that.
This year he’s run for 248 metres from four games played, made nine-line breaks, and beaten six defenders. Hansen’s been a solid replacement for the injured Tom Wright, but will have to continue to perform at a high standard to hold his place once the Wallabies winger returns.
Fa’amausili was one of the standouts for the Rebels last year, with his performance against the Reds at Sydney’s Brookvale Oval a particular standout. His popularity soared on the back of that, and he quickly became one of the faces of the Rebels, as well as one of their stars.
He was included in Dave Rennie’s first Wallabies squad last year but didn’t go on to make his test debut.
Coming into this season, there was always going to be mounting pressure on him to continue his rise. He offers something different than most other props, showing great versatility and quickness that not all front-rowers have to the same standard.
For the most part, I think he’s continued his rise in what we’ve seen of him so far in 2021, having started all three matches for the Rebels. He’s also been named to start for the Rebels when they make their return to Melbourne this weekend.
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