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Rising star McLaughlin-Phillips embracing ‘pressure’ with Junior Wallabies

By Finn Morton
Harry McLaughlin-Phillips of the Queensland Reds (L) looks for a gap during the round eight Super Rugby Pacific match between Moana Pasifika and Queensland Reds at Semenoff Stadium, on April 12, 2024, in Whangarei, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Harry McLaughlin-Phillips let out a brief chuckle when asked if he knew everyone’s name in the Junior Wallabies’ squad. McLaughlin-Phillips, who is still only 20 years of age, only joined the squad earlier this week from the Queensland Reds.

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The Sunshine Coast product is widely considered one of the brightest rising stars in Australian rugby at the moment, with McLaughlin-Phillips earning two starts in the NO 10 jumper in six appearance for the Reds this season.

McLaughlin-Phillips secured a match-winning penalty at the breakdown in Queensland’s win over the Chief in round three, and the youngster was rewarded with a start one week later against the Rebels at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.

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Harry McLaughlin-Phillips on his late call-up for Australia | TRC U20

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Harry McLaughlin-Phillips on his late call-up for Australia | TRC U20

With Tom Lynagh, Lawson Creighton and now the returning James O’Connor also challenging for the starting role at flyhalf, McLaughlin-Phillips has shown time and time again that he’s more than ready to perform when called upon for the Reds.

But for now, McLaughlin-Phillips has stepped away from Super Rugby Pacific duty and will instead turn his focus to the final round of the inaugural Rugby Championship U20.

“There was a bit of conversation between (Junior Wallabies coach) Greysie and (Reds coach) Les (Kiss). I think they’ve been chatting in the background,” McLaughlin-Phillips told RugbyPass and another two publications.

“After the game on the weekend against the Crusaders the opportunity sort of arose and Les let me know I’m coming in and I was pretty excited about that.”

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After being called into the Junior Wallabies’ camp, McLaughlin-Phillips wore the team polo and sat in the stands at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Tuesday as the Aussies got their campaign back on track with a 24-19 win over the Junior Springboks.

McLaughlin-Phillips wasn’t available to take on South Africa but the Queenslander will be in the mix for selection ahead of Australia’s blockbuster Trans-Tasman clash with arch-rivals New Zealand this weekend.

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Joey Fowler and Cullen Gray have both performed well in the starting NO 10 jersey, but McLaughlin-Phillips wants “to be taking that” shirt into the final round of this tournament and into the upcoming World Rugby U20 Championship in South Africa.

With six promising performances for the Reds under his belt, McLaughlin-Phillips is aware of the expectations that may rest on his shoulders but is looking to make the most of the opportunity in a new rugby environment away from the Reds.

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“It gives me confidence,” McLaughlin-Phillips said. “Confidence in that I’ve learnt things I can apply here but it also does add that pressure that I’ve got to perform and I’m excited about that.

“This allows me to get around a different group of boys and a different group of coaches and expand my knowledge and see different pictures of the game.

“It just gives me a different perspective on the game.”

Australia are still third on the ladder with one loss and a win to their name and would have to be deemed an outside chance of taking out the title on home soil. But they still have a chance and that’s what matters.

The Baby Blacks can wrap up the tile with a win over the Aussies, while Argentina sit second on the table. If Los Pumitas can beat South Africa with a winning bonus point, and Australia beats New Zealand, then the Argentinians will take home the gigantic trophy.

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