'He wants to start': Dave Rennie on Noah Lolesio's surprise No 10 omission
With the likes of Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley and James O’Connor all unavailable, the next most experienced cab off the ranks, 22-year-old Noah Lolesio, was expected to wear the No 10 jersey for the Wallabies this weekend but in a surprise move, Ben Donaldson has been handed the flyhalf role against Wales.
Donaldson made his Test debut off the bench against Italy two weeks ago, chalking up just half a dozen minutes on the pitch before being tasked with attempting what would have been a match-winning kick at goal. While Donaldson couldn’t hit his target in Florence, Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie has entrusted the 23-year-old with guiding the team around the park at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.
“We want to find out a bit more about Dono,” Rennie said after naming his side for the Wallabies’ final Test of the year. “He’s training really well, he’s got points of difference and we want to see what that’s like under the blow torch.”
While Donaldson was one of Australia’s form flyhalves throughout Super Rugby Pacific, Lolesio has been a member of the Wallabies set-up since 2020, earning 13 starts throughout his three years with the side.
Consistency hasn’t always been a strength of the Brumbies pivot, however, with composed showings often followed by flustered appearances.
Unsurprisingly, Lolesio is still very much eager to wear the No 10 jersey, however.
“Oh, he wants to start,” said Rennie. “There’s no doubt about that.
“We talk about earning the right to start and earning the right to play. He’s played a lot of good footy for us in some big games but you’ve got to back that up consistently.
“He played well against South Africa [but] he got a head knock, couldn’t play the first Test against the All Blacks. Bernard played really well and he gives a lot of voice and a lot of experience and that’s helped.
“So they’re areas where Noah is trying to develop: his game awareness, his ability to implement and run a game. [It was] not easy for him against Italy. We didn’t go that well in front of him. So yeah, we could easily have started Noah.”
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Despite the No 10 jersey being somewhat of a revolving door this season, with Lolesio the most common selection with just six appearances to his name in 2022, Rennie affirmed on Thursday that at least in his mind, there is a clear first-choice pivot – presumably one of the injured duo of Cooper and Foley.
With the Wallabies likely to take three flyhalves to France next year for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Saturday’s fixture presents Donaldson with a prime opportunity to push his case for selection.
This weekend’s clash between Wales and Australia is set to kick off at 3:15pm GMT.
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