'Not all of it has been doom and gloom': Why Lolesio must start
Despite hints from head coach Dave Rennie that veteran playmaker Quade Cooper could make his long-awaited return to the test arena against the All Blacks next weekend, the Kiwi view is that the Wallabies should stick with Noah Lolesio.
Speaking on this week’s Aotearoa Rugby Pod, former Blues hooker James Parsons tabled two potential options at Rennie’s disposal that involve either No 10 – use Cooper with a young midfield, or use Lolesio with experienced No 12 Samu Kerevi.
“There’s another way of looking at it, in that Quade could potentially line up in that 10 jersey as the experienced back to connect with [Hunter] Paisami and [Len] Ikitau at 12 and 13,” Parsons mulled.
“Or you keep Lolesio there because he’s your future and you’re working towards 2023, and you might as well keep backing him.
“To be honest, some of his game has been top class, a couple of grubbers in behind that set-up tries. There’s been a few intercepts but not all of it has been doom and gloom.”
Parsons thought Lolesio, the young Brumbies No 10, has shown enough to keep his starting spot, with his nice lead-up work helping creating multiple Wallabies tries, while also using his boot to set-up a couple more over the two All Blacks tests.
Although the Wallabies tried Matt To’omua in the second test, the hard-running Kerevi could be the right option to play alongside Lolesio.
“I think Noah’s shown enough to keep his 10 jersey. They obviously put To’omua there in that second test to give a bit of experience, but we know that Samu Kerevi is coming back,” Parsons said.
“If you can put someone of his ability outside Noah, it will really allow them to open up and take the pressure off the likes of Hunter Paisami.”
If Kerevi is not ready to start the test, Parsons suggested playing a young midfield featuring Ikitau, the 22-year-old centre who started the first test against the All Blacks.
Parsons said he was impressed by the defensive efforts of both Ikitau and Paisami, who is unavailable for this week’s clash due to the birth of his child, in the 33-25 defeat to the Kiwis earlier this month.
“We saw the defensive pressure those two young men put the All Blacks under in that first test at Eden Park, but also sticks to way Dave Rennie builds his squads. He really does back his youth,” Parsons said.
“I really like Ikitau, and I know he’s dropped back to the bench, I thought he was great with his opportunities.
“He [Cooper] certainly has a place to play, whether be an opportunity to start or an opportunity off the bench, because we know the style of coach Dave Rennie is. If you are nailing it at training, putting pressure on, he will reward you.”
Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall also pencilled in a bench role for Cooper as he argued more time invested into Lolesio will be beneficial with his overall development.
Hall added that if the game hasn’t panned out the way the Wallabies want, the experience of Cooper can then be brought into the game.
“I think the bench role would be great for Quade,” the Maori All Blacks star said.
“We’ve talked a lot about Lolesio, and I think anytime you are a 10, he’s had a few rocky performances just because of how great the All Blacks have been playing, especially defending, it’s been tough.
“But, I think the more time you can get on him, being able to continue his growth around controlling the team and getting the attack shapes right, growing as a leader within that squad, I think they will continue to keep playing him.
“If it doesn’t go how you want to in the first 50 minutes of the test match, then you’ve got a guy like Quade Cooper that you can bring on.
“You know what you are going to get with Quade, so I think sticking with Lolesio and having the guys around him that he’s played with is really important going forward.”
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