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The players set to profit from Wales' new gameplan

With the Pivac era now a distant memory, Warren Gatland has a rich seam of talent to select from in the Six Nations

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'I feel for Noah Lolesio': RWC winner weighs in on Australia's 'selection policy'

By Finn Morton
Noah Lolesio. (Photo by Steve Christo - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

While the Wallabies showed plenty of potential during an injury-ravaged campaign, it seems like they’re still not getting the most out of some of their key players.

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Rising star Noah Lolesio is one of the most exciting talents in Australian rugby right now, but the 22-year-old only started six Test matches in the No. 10 jersey this year.

Lolesio has shown in the past that he’s more than capable of carrying the responsibility of being the Wallabies’ chief playmaker in crunch clashes with the world’s best teams.

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It’s quite incredible really that at some a young age, he’s played a crucial role in wins over traditional international juggernauts including France, New Zealand and South Africa.

With the Rugby World Cup nigh on the horizon, Lolesio was given the first shot at making that jersey his own during the three Test-series with England in July – starting all the matches and playing quite well.

But the star pivot would only start three more Tests across the remaining 11 matches in 2022, as the coveted jersey was worn by four other players – James O’Connor, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley and Ben Donaldson.

Rugby World Cup winning Wallaby Matt Burke has shared his thoughts about Australia’s “selection policy” this season, as he revealed why he feels “for Noah Lolesio.”

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“For me, it was consistency, or lack thereof in that selection policy,” Burke told The Roar.

“Three 9s, 10s, I feel for Noah Lolesio.

“We keep hearing he’s got great talent, great skill, but he doesn’t get a start in that last Test against Wales.

“You put Donno (Ben Donaldson) in there, I’m not taking away from Donno.

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“(But) You need to play at the high level to be able to sustain and understand what’s going on there.

“I’m not a big fan of testing them out. You don’t test out at national level. You test out maybe at Super Rugby and club, but when you’re playing for your country, you know what’s going on.”

While the flyhalf is simply the quarterback of a rugby union team, it takes more than just one star to match it with the best teams in the world.

Selection headaches have plagued the team across the board, including at halfback which Burke alluded to.

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But another big question which remains answered for the Wallabies following their thrilling five Test spring tour is: who starts at fullback?

Similarly to flyhalf, there were a number of players who lined up out the back for the Wallabies in 2022. Fullback Tom Banks started the first Test before picking up an injury early on.

Andrew Kellaway, Tom Wright, Jordan Petaia and Reece Hodge are other stars who had the chance to line up at fullback in the gold jersey before, although that’s not their primary position.

Queensland Reds utility back Jock Campbell is a fullback by trade, and did the Wallaby jersey justice when he was given the chance to make his debut during the end-of-season tour.

But looking ahead to next year’s Super Rugby season, which will undoubtedly be incredibly important for every player looking for national honours, Burke believes Australia’s fullback needs to be playing there for their clubs.

“For this period coming up in Super Rugby 2023, you’ve got to have a player and a person who is in that position week-in, week-out, so it just becomes familiar and you understand decision-making,” Burke said.

“You understand when to run and when to kick, mind you there’s not a great deal of kicking these days… but I think that’s the consistency.

“You’ve got to know the 14 blokes in front of you feel safe when you’re out the back there. It’s not just the running and the passing, it’s the communication you have at the back there.

“The chat is so important when you’ve got barrages, people are holding the ball for longer and longer, so you’ve got to be able to be a voice for people who are spent because they’re working so hard in the front-line.”

As for who the Australian rugby great would choose at fullback, Burke highlight Campbell – who played his best game in a gold jersey against France at Stade de France.

“Jock Campbell got moved to a bit of wing action for the Reds, but he’s been the one who has probably spent the most time in that 15s role through Super Rugby and the previous two years.

“Him coming on this tour, I think it’s quite a good thing.

“At least you’ve got someone there who can go, ‘yep, I can play fullback and that is my job.’ It is so specific as well.

“He’s got speed, vision, we know he can get over the line, so you’ve got a guy in there who could fill a role and fill it well.

“I’m not a fan of having a first XV and fitting the best players in because sometimes if you fit the best in, it just doesn’t click, and you don’t get those real combinations in. He could do that job well.”

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