Brumbies coach Dan McKellar backs quiet but lethal No.8 Pete Samu to do his talking on the field when he locks horns with Wallabies rival Harry Wilson in their table-topping Super Rugby AU match in Canberra on Saturday.
Rookie Queensland Reds back rower Wilson has been among the finds of the disrupted 2020 season, the dynamic ball-runner emerging as a genuine contender for Dave Rennie’s maiden Test squad.
Samu was among the unluckiest players to miss Wallabies World Cup selection last year and his standards have remained high.
It sets up a classic showdown between two contrasting figures who are both central cogs in the country’s two in-form domestic teams.
McKellar has plenty of time for 20-year-old Wilson but delivered a reality check to the age-group star.
“He’s obviously a talented sportsman and a really good player, there’s no doubting that but he’s in the early stages of his career,” McKellar said.
“He’s probably now not the player that no one knows about so he’s on a few tip sheets.
“He runs good lines, got good skills, a good offload and he looks to be a real competitor … but let’s not think he’s going to be the next Mark Loane or Toutai Kefu after half a dozen games. Let’s see him get there over time.”
McKellar said Wilson could to worse than emulate the classic rugby pathway of Samu.
The Melbourne-born 28-year-old had lengthy club stints in Brisbane and Sydney before furthering his career in New Zealand, firstly at provincial level and then with the Super Rugby powerhouse Crusaders, where he won two titles and learned from some All Blacks greats.
“We’re fortunate to have him here now. He’s done the hard yards over a long period of time,” McKellar said.
“That’ll be a really good matchup (with Wilson) and I’m sure the Wallabies coaching staff will be watching that one closely.”
McKellar dismissed a suggestion Samu had only numbered nine Test caps, including just three starts, because of his quietly-spoken personality.
“I thought last year Pete did all his talking on the field,” he said.
“He’s got a particular role that he plays with us, just giving him a little bit of freedom.
“As a coach, you’re not looking for the blokes who rant and rave. You’re looking for the blokes that talk with actions.”
The Brumbies will make it four wins from four if successful and will hand the Reds their first loss of the revamped competition.
However, the Reds could go top if they can manage a first win in Canberra since 2014.
– Daniel Gilhooly
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