It’s been seven years since new Wallabies midfielder Irae Simone last played alongside All Blacks star Jack Goodhue.
The pair could be in line to meet again in about two-and-a-half week’s time, though, with the former Mount Albert Grammar School 1st XV teammates set for a Bledisloe Cup reunion, albeit while playing for different teams.
Born and raised in Auckland, Simone was Goodhue’s midfield partner at the esteemed rugby nursery, which has produced previous All Blacks such as Sonny Bill Williams and Steven Luatua, as well as current newbie Caleb Clarke.
However, the 25-year-old – who was part of the Super Rugby AU title-winning Brumbies side on Saturday – revealed he had no ambition of joining that list while growing up.
“My parents, they got an old video, they asked me what what team I wanted to play for, and I said the Wallabies,” he said on Tuesday.
“I looked up to a lot of players in the All Blacks, but I’ve never wanted to play for the All Blacks. My family’s huge Wallabies supporters, so they’re pretty stoked about this.”
He credited his allegiance to Australia to his childhood hero Matt Giteau, a five-eighth with 103 test caps to his name and two Super 12 championships with the Brumbies.
“I just loved watching him, in terms of his skills, mindset, just how he approached the game. He’s a player that I’ve always looked up to,” Simone said.
“Then you have the greats like [George] Gregan, so back then, the Wallabies were at their peak. It’s probably fair to say that’s dropped down a few the last couple of years, but I’m with a special group here.
“There’s something special that’s brewing within this group, and hopefully we can turn that into a winning mindset in a few games.”
An uncapped prospect who has flourished since moving to the Brumbies from the Waratahs earlier this year, Simone may get a chance to realise his long-held dream after being named in Dave Rennie’s 44-man Wallabies squad a fortnight ago.
That opportunity to don the green and gold jersey might come earlier than first expected after rising Reds star Jordan Petaia suffered a hip flexor injury in his side’s 28-23 Super Rugby AU final defeat to Simone’s Brumbies.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 21, 2020
Many tipped the three-cap Wallabies utility to slot into Rennie’s midfield alongside either franchise teammate James O’Connor or Rebels playmaker Matt To’omua, but he is now in serious doubt to make the cut for Bledisloe Cup opener on October 11.
Petaia’s misfortune could pave the way for Simone to earn his maiden Wallabies cap against his nation of birth in what the latter said would be “a dream come true”.
“There’s a process and there’s a lot of hard work that needs to be done before that,” he added. “But, if the opportunity comes, I’ll definitely be looking forward to that.”
Should Simone be named in Rennie’s first-ever Wallabies team, there’s a fair chance he will be tasked with marking Goodhue, who he said hadn’t given him much banter leading into the clash.
“He sent me a message a few days ago, but no chat at the moment. He’s not throwing much chat with his s*** haircut at the moment,” Simone joked, referring to Goodhue’s recent decision to part ways with his famed mullet.
The Wallabies are expected to fly out of Australia on Friday to undergo a two-week quarantine period in New Zealand leading into their first match.
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