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‘He’s earned it’: The Brumbies enforcer set for first start in Wallaby gold

By Finn Morton
Charlie Cale poses during an Australia Wallabies Portrait Session on June 26, 2024 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images for ARU)

At just 23 years of age, ACT Brumbies bruiser Charlie Cale has been handed a maiden Test start by Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt ahead of this weekend’s clash with Wales in Melbourne.

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Cale debuted off the bench in last week’s 25-16 win over the Welsh at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium but has received a promotion to the First XV. After an injury to skipper Liam Wright, a backrow reshuffle has opened the door for an exciting new challenge.

Wright officially became the 89th Wallabies captain five days ago but will sit out the upcoming Test with a shoulder injury. Queenslander Fraser McReight holds onto his place at openside while Rob Valetini shifts from No. 8 to blindside to accommodate Cale’s selection.

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Joe Schmidt and Liam Wright after Wallabies win over Wales

Coach Joe Schmidt and captain Liam Wright spoke to media following their 25-16 win over Wales in Sydney. Wright became the 89th captain of Australia when he led the side out for the first time in front of more than 35,00

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Joe Schmidt and Liam Wright after Wallabies win over Wales

Coach Joe Schmidt and captain Liam Wright spoke to media following their 25-16 win over Wales in Sydney. Wright became the 89th captain of Australia when he led the side out for the first time in front of more than 35,00

Earlier this year, rugby fans and pundits around Australia were singing the praises of young Cale who was in the midst of a breakout campaign with the Brumbies. Cale started 10 matches in Super Rugby Pacific, including the Brumbies’ quarter and semi-final.

Heralded as a Wallaby-in-waiting, the Beecroft junior was thrown into the Test arena by Schmidt last time out, and while Cale didn’t exactly set the world alight, the loosie has done enough to make the No. 8 jersey his own for at least one week.

“There’s obviously a bit of fortune with Liam being injured but you earn what you get and I think he’s earned it on the back of Super Rugby form,” Schmidt told reporters on Thursday.

“He was relatively quiet when he came off the bench last week and I think, to give a young player real confidence – to get the training week, to get the clarity… he can get his head around the requirements.

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“Inevitably, when you’re coming off the bench you don’t get the same reps in the team and so, for lineout clarity where he’s so quick into the air, for clarity around his role in the defensive system or in the attacking shape… it’ll be a nice runway into Saturday’s game.”

The backrow change is the only real tweak to the Wallabies’ XV that handed Wales their eighth loss on the bounce. Schmidt has gone with the same backline and tight five, with the only difference being the captaincy to James Slipper.

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Wales are in a bit of similar situation with world-class No. 8 Aaron Wainwright ruled out of the remainder of their tour Down Under with an injury. Wainwright was one of the visitor’s best last weekend before picking up the injury in the dying stages.

These changes present an exciting matchup at the back of the scrum between Cale and four-Test loosie Taine Plumtree. The pair will go head-to-head in what should be an exciting clash between two young players with a point to prove.

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“I haven’t heard what the reason is with Liam in terms of the captaincy, I don’t know if he’s got an injury,” Wales coach Warren Gatland questioned when asked about the Wallabies’ backrow.

“But Charlie, I thought he’s been pretty outstanding in terms of his carries and the impact he’s had in some of those games in Super Rugby.”

With Cale coming into the side for Wright, there is that change at captaincy with Test veteran James Slipper taking up the position. This will be the 15th time the loosehead prop leads the Wallabies into battle.

Wright will be disappointed with the injury after forcing his way back into Wallaby gold for the first time in almost four years, but there is good news with Schmidt saying the flanker should be in the mix to play Georgia next weekend.

“It’s frustrating,” Schmidt said when prompted about Wright’s injury. “We’ve got confidence in the squad.

“We thought it would come right pretty quickly. He got the whack in the game and post-match, we thought the progress would be pretty quick and it’s just a little bit slower than we would’ve liked.

“Once he wasn’t fully fit to be named to train on Tuesday, we just felt it was better to give certainty to the guys that were going to be there – particularly a young guy like Charlie Cale, his first Test match last week, his first Test start this week. You want to support that run in as best you can with a nice, clean entry into the game through the training week.”

All Black second row Brodie Retallick joins Jim Hamilton for the latest episode of Walk the Talk, touching on life in Japan, RWC 2023 and the future of All Black rugby. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Wonton 4 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

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Nick 5 hours ago
How 'gazelle' Nick Frost thawed the hearts of Wallaby fans at Suncorp

Its almost like you read my comment on the other site on sunday morning Nick - you flagged all the same examples! 😝 Frost was motm for mine. That eg in the 56th minute in particular impressed me, nothing but sheer effort and a dupont/smith-like tracking line behind the D. Surely an effort like that from frost marries perfectly with that quote from schmidt at the start of the year about effort and work rate being 70-80% and talent is just the icing on top… What it also showed though was the players not making that effort, in that example he goes past both valetini and ikitau, and in the eg that finished with valetini scoring hunter paisami barely breaks a canter to support the break. And then there was the chase from wright and lancaster for the 2nd georgian try! One blemish - at kickoff I saw frost miss or get bumped off a few tackles and I felt like I saw what has been holding his selection back. I think because he is so big and is trying to get low to tackle, he seems to dip his head and ends up losing his balance or ability to adjust and ends up missing or making a soft hit. I think in the first 2 minutes he misses or makes 2-3 soft tackles, but you could clearly see the work rate and desire! He (the pod) also missed a kick restart or two? Also very happy to see harry wilson back in the fold. What impressed me from him wasn’t all the usual stuff he is known for, but all the other bits that usually let him down. He looked surprisingly good in the air at lineout time, physical at the breakdown, and good in the maul peeling off 3 georgians for one of the maul tries. Id have frost, skelton, wright as my 4-6 with LSL and wilson on the bench. i’m once again unconvinced by tom wirght - he was very good game 1, but game 2-3 he was back to more rocks than diamonds. There is no real other player to usurp him really so he stays in the team for now but I think Joe should put kellaway wherever he serves the team best and wright can be moved around him. Did donno do enough to overtake noah? My gut says no. They clearly had a plan to attack more so he looked better in that regard because he just had more opportunity, but they looked better off tate (who had a v good game also) then they did off donno.

15 Go to comments
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