Rookie Wallabies loose forward Harry Wilson has made no secret of how he is relishing the prospect of facing off against fellow international newbie Hoskins Sotutu in the upcoming Bledisloe Cup series and Rugby Championship.
The two uncapped youngsters are poised to make their test debuts over the coming weeks, with Sotutu called up by the All Blacks after standing out for the Blues, while the impressive Wilson is currently quarantining with the Wallabies in Christchurch following a superb campaign with the Reds.
Prior to his side’s departure for New Zealand last week ahead of next Sunday’s Bledisloe Cup opener in Wellington, Wilson singled out Sotutu as a member of the All Blacks that had caught his eye throughout Super Rugby Aotearoa.
“Being a No. 8, I really enjoyed watching Hoskins Sotutu play this season,” the 20-year-old told media last Tuesday.
“I thought he was superb. It was just really cool watching him play, being another young No. 8, I guess gave me confidence seeing how well he could play at his age, so he’s one person I’ve enjoyed playing.
“[He’s] a player I’d love to play against because I could see him being one of the best No. 8s in the world pretty quickly.”
His praise of Sotutu, however, has been bluntly dismissed as mind games by former two-test All Blacks hooker and Sotutu’s Blues teammate James Parsons.
Speaking to the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Parsons labelled Wilson’s assessment of Sotutu as a “great ploy” to “soften” the All Blacks leading into the first trans-Tasman test on October 11.
“I love how he’s doing the softening up in the media already,” Parsons said of Wilson’s comments. “It’s a good approach.”
The 33-year-old veteran suggested he doesn’t believe Wilson’s comments are as genuine as he intended them to be, adding: “He was saying Hoskins Sotutu could be the best No. 8 in the world. Great ploy. He doesn’t think it. It’s a great ploy.”
When asked by fellow panellist and Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall whether Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie had spurred Wilson on to lather the All Blacks in praise ahead of their encounter, Parsons instead theorised that Wilson had learned the mental tactic from his Reds coach Brad Thorn.
He noted the ex-All Blacks lock’s role in the highly-publicised on-field clash between former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and Quade Cooper in 2011, with Thorn pushing the ex-Wallabies playmaker onto the deck after he kneed McCaw in the head.
“I just think it’s a bit of Brad Thorn, maybe there… just saying ‘Don’t disrespect them’, because that will motivate them,” Parsons said.
“He was the biggest advocate when the Wallabies were into the All Blacks. We all know the infamous Quade Cooper-Richie McCaw incident. It just looks like it’s come straight out of the school of Thorn for me. I don’t think he means it at all.”
Parsons said that Rennie, who has only been in camp with his 44-man Wallabies squad since the beginning of last week, wouldn’t have had enough time to sway the way in which Wilson, or any of his players, handles their media responsibilities.
Thorn, however, has coached Wilson since the latter first joined the Queensland franchise at the beginning of last year, and that, believes Parsons, is enough for the former dual international to have influenced both the uncapped loose forward and his Reds teammates.
“I genuinely think he [Rennie] hasn’t been there long enough to make that imprint just yet,” Parsons said. “I honestly think a lot of it’s [what Wilson said is because] he’s a Reds player.
“The influence of Thorn on the Reds boys and what standards he expects, it’s evident in the way they play, even in the way they hold themselves, so I think it’s probably more credit to the way the Reds have been run at this stage.
“But with Rennie there, that’s the sort of characters he likes as well, so there’ll be a continuation of those messages and [that] will flow through to their performances.”
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