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From rejection to redemption: Angus Staniforth’s journey to Australia U20s

By Finn Morton
Angus Staniforth of Australia runs with the ball during The Rugby Championship U20 Round 3 match between Australia and New Zealand at Sunshine Coast Stadium on May 12, 2024 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

There was something personal about the Brumbies’ 20-12 win over arch-rivals the NSW Waratahs in the Super Rugby U19s final last year. For the “rejects from other states” who had proven themselves worthy champions of Australia, it was a validating run to glory.

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Angus Staniforth started in the No. 14 jumper on the right wing in that decider. The nephew of Wallaby Scott Staniforth had dreamt of wearing the iconic sky blue jersey of the NSW Waratahs but that goal was dashed after U18s representative duties.

For a young man who had shown so much promise on the rugby field, the Waratahs door was slammed shut but another opportunity presented itself down south in the capital. The Brumbies came knocking and offered the youngster with a chance to join their academy.

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Angus Staniforth on the Boogieman and the Baby Blacks | TRC U20

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Angus Staniforth on the Boogieman and the Baby Blacks | TRC U20

Staniforth didn’t initially want to make the move. The teenager had a life in New South Wales with family and friends, and Canberra felt like a long way away, so the speedy winger didn’t necessarily want to give that up at first.

But after agreeing and then moving, Staniforth helped the Brumbies claim a slender win at home over the Tahs in the opening round. They finished the regular season with an unbeaten record from four matches, which extended to five in the big dance.

“I’m happy that I’ve made the move and thanks to my family for giving me that nudge,” Staniforth told RugbyPass during in April.

“It was probably something I didn’t really want to do but they really pushed me into it. I’m happy now because if I didn’t go down there I probably wouldn’t be where I am now.

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“The Brumbies do tend to struggle in younger age groups so to come away with the win in that competition, beating the Tahs the favourites, the Reds the favourites, to come away with a win in that competition meant a lot to us boys,” he added.

“A lot of us were rejects from other states but to stick it back to the states where we grew up and where we’re from, it’s pretty surreal.

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“It was very validating. It was unreal.

“Round one we had Tahs down in Canberra at Viking Park and a lot of us boys were rejects, wouldn’t even really almost had a look in at Tahs. It was pretty unreal to stick it back to them and get the win.”

It’s like something out of a 90s feel-good sports movie. Setbacks are part of any game or sport, and in rugby, that is definitely the case. Whether it’s the pain of losing or the agonising phone call when you miss out on a team, it’s how players bounce back that defines them.

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For Staniforth, the decision to head south with the Brumbies academy has led to an opportunity with the Australia U20s. The outside back spoke with this website during The Rugby Championship U20 on the Sunshine Coast earlier this year.

Australia were beaten by Argentina in torrential conditions in their first match but bounced back that weekend with a clinical win over South Africa. Sporting white headgear, it was impossible not to notice Staniforth’s impact.

“I suppose I was a bit lucky to get a fair bit of ball on the left wing. Wings don’t generally see too much of the ball but it being wet, I wasn’t expecting it too much,” Staniforth said.

“Being able to get a fair few opportunities was obviously pleasing and to be able to execute on some was pretty unreal.

“I’m pretty sure on my first carry I got put on my back and then moments later, I’m pretty sure I was under a high ball and got absolutely driven to the ground. I got broke back to Earth pretty quickly.

“Playing against, I think it was one of the big schoolboys over there, the ‘Boogieman’, you see him on YouTube, you see his highlights murdering kids.”

Staniforth retained a spot in the starting side to take on New Zealand in a competition-deciding clash at Sunshine Coast Stadium. Instead of lining up on the wing, the Junior Wallaby was shifted back to fullback where once again he impressed.

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Unsurprisingly, the Canberra Royals outside back was selected in Australia’s squad for the World Rugby U20 Championship in South Africa.

Following on from Staniforth’s impressive form on the Sunshine Coast about 50 days ago, it would make sense for fans to assume Staniforth will play a part.

Australia open their campaign against Georgia on Sunday morning [AEST] before taking on Italy and Ireland later on in Pool B. The Junior Wallabies finished fifth last year but will be eager to push on to the semi-finals in Cape Town this time.

Fans can catch the latest World Rugby U20 Championship action on RugbyPass TV. It’s free to sign up HERE.

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