Wallabies great Toutai Kefu believes Dave Rennie should roll the dice on a Harry Wilson Test debut in New Zealand next month, declaring the No.8 could be “one of the greats”.
Queensland Reds rookie Wilson stormed into Rennie’s first Wallabies squad on Sunday and will vie for a berth in two Tests against the All Blacks next month before a Rugby Championship on home soil.
The 20-year-old’s form was good enough to unseat incumbent Isi Naisarani, who missed a spot altogether in a statement selection by Rennie.
A key figure when the Wallabies last won in New Zealand 19 years ago, Kefu said he saw plenty of himself in Wilson and that he was the type of player capable of turning around the fortunes of a side that’s slumped to No.7 in the world.
“You don’t get too many big guys like that with the skills, the offload … he could be one of the greats,” Kefu, now Tonga’s head coach, said.
“The No.8s we’ve had recently have been more one-dimensional, powerful ball runners and big defenders.
“It’s good to see Dave Rennie’s willing to gamble; you have to look for players with a point of difference and we just haven’t had backrowers use a bit of footwork, bit of finesse since probably myself … maybe George Smith was the last one.
“You’ve got to (possess) three or four threats at the advantage line.”
Rennie used his first press conference after naming the squad to send a message across the Tasman that quarantine measures would need to be loosened for them to play their opener on October 11.
It went right to the top, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern relaxing protocols to allow the Wallabies to train as one group in their bubble earlier than first planned.
The Australia squad will head to Wellington after Saturday’s Super Rugby AU decider between the Brumbies and Reds in Canberra.
Former Wallabies centre Tim Horan said it was an encouraging power play from Rennie.
“For Dave and his staff, they wanted to draw a line in the sand and make sure they were ready,” he said.
Horan has been impressed by the standard of the Australian outfits since the COVID-19 break.
While optimistic, he said with 16 uncapped players and a further 13 with less than 10 caps in the squad, the Australia could not expect immediate success.
“It’s great for the Wallabies to have that opportunity … let’s go to New Zealand, try and beat them on home soil and then come to Brisbane and try and win the Bledisloe Cup,” Horan said.
– Murray Wenzel
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