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‘Going to be a sponge’: Noah Lolesio relishing another chance with Wallabies

By AAP
Noah Lolesio during a Wallabies training session at Ballymore Stadium on June 25, 2024 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Welcoming a clean slate, Noah Lolesio hopes to finally nail down the Wallabies No.10 slot after being handed a golden opportunity under new coach Joe Schmidt.

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Like many, Lolesio has been in and out of Australia’s side since debuting under Dave Rennie in 2020 and then being overlooked by Eddie Jones for last year’s disastrous Rugby World Cup campaign in France.

The 24-year-old readily admits he was down in the dumps before enjoying a refreshing short stint with Toulon late last year as the Wallabies failed to progress out of the pool stages for the first time at the global showpiece.

With Carter Gordon, who was Jones’ only specialist five-eighth at the World Cup, heading to the NRL next year, Schmidt has opted to bring Lolesio back in from the cold for Australia’s upcoming Tests against Wales and Georgia.

He seems locked in a three-man battle with uncapped Queensland Reds playmaker Tom Lynagh and Western Force utility Ben Donaldson for the gold No.10 jumper for the Wallabies’ season-opening clash with Wales on July 6.

Veteran Kurtley Beale is the long shot but word on the street is the sharp-shooting Lolesio will be given first crack under Schmidt after piloting the Brumbies to the Super Rugby Pacific semi-finals for a second straight year.

“I’m really grateful to be back in the set-up with all the boys. It’s good to see all the faces again,” Lolesio said on Tuesday.

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“I’ll just try and do the best job that I can, training every day, meetings and stuff with the boys and obviously try to get as much feedback as I can from Joe as well because obviously he’s a very experienced coach.

“You just look at his resume so I’m just going to be a sponge and learn as much as I can.”

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Ultimately, Lolesio’s biggest learning from being promoted and relegated from Wallabies teams past is to stick his natural game and try to relax in the heat of battle.

“I’ve sort of taken this approach into the camp of not really changing much of what I’ve done this Super season,” he said.

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“The time in France taught me a lot, of just loosening myself up a bit.

“I know as a young 10 internationally, you can tend to put a lot of pressure on yourself.

“So just trying to loosen myself up a bit more to enjoy the moments and training, enjoy the moments with the boys and stuff because when I tend to enjoy what I’m doing, I tend to play better.

“It’s worked well so far and nothing will change in how I prep or anything like that heading in towards the upcoming Test if I get the opportunity to play.”

Lolesio knows he’s not the only one being offered a fresh start after Schmidt picked only 14 players from last year’s World Cup squad for his 38-man training camp.

“Obviously last year happened and a fair chunk of that squad didn’t make it this year,” he said.

“So any position is up for grabs. The next few days of training Joe will be watching with a close eye.

“So, yeah, it’s a clean slate for anyone.”

In this episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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finn 4 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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