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The Brumbies re-sign a matured Noah Lolesio courtesy of France stint

By AAP
Noah Lolesio of the Brumbies passes the ball during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Melbourne Rebels and ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park, on February 23, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Playmaker Noah Lolesio admits he considered giving up on Australian rugby at the start of the year, but a stand-out season with the ACT Brumbies has convinced him to commit his future to the Wallabies.

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The 24-year-old on Wednesday signed a contract extension keeping him with the Brumbies and Rugby Australia until the end of 2025.

After falling out of favour under former national coach Eddie Jones last year, Lolesio is back in contention for Wallabies squad selection under the new regime of Joe Schmidt.

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The skilful five-eighth says he is a changed player and person after a challenging couple of years.

“If you would’ve asked me at the start of this year what I’ll be doing, I’d be 50-50 on staying or leaving,” Lolesio said.

“It was a real gut feeling for me to stay one more year and I’m just really enjoying my time, especially at the Brumbies.”

After his snubbing during the Wallabies’ dire 2023 World Cup season, Lolesio spent a transformative three-month stint in French rugby with Toulon.

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“It’s probably the most critical experience I’ve had so far in my rugby career,” he said.

“Obviously last year with the Wallabies, stuff didn’t go my way. But again, I believe that everything happens for a reason and if I did make the Wallabies last year, I probably wouldn’t have gone to France and Toulon.

“My experience over there was awesome, I really enjoyed it.”

Lolesio says the French lifestyle put rugby into perspective and helped him grow on and off the field.

“I’ve tried to take my approach from France back to here at the Brums and really loosen myself up, just enjoy it and not put so much pressure on myself as I’ve probably done in the last few years,” he said.

“I feel I’ve been playing some consistent footy and hopefully I do the same again this Friday.”

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A semi-final win over the Blues on Friday at Auckland’s Eden Park – the graveyard of Australian rugby – would cement Lolesio’s place in the mind of Wallabies selectors after collecting the Super Rugby Pacific season’s second-highest points tally of 140.

The match-up is also an opportunity for Lolesio to prove how far he has come in the two years since his drop-goal attempt to seal a win against the Blues in the 2022 semi-final was charged-down in the dying seconds.

Lolesio was coy about his national team prospects, but was full of praise for his “hard-working” potential future mentor Schmidt.

“Obviously there’s a new coach in the Wallabies set up. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him,” he said.

“But throughout this whole season, I haven’t really thought about that at all. I’ve just really put all my energy and focus into doing the best job for the Brumbies and just trying to enjoy myself as well because when I enjoy my footy, that’s when I tend to be playing my best.”

Stephen Larkham, Lolesio’s coach at the Brumbies and one of the Wallabies’ finest No.10s in his own right, had no doubts about his young prospect’s readiness to resume the national team role.

“We’re absolutely rapt that he’s staying with the organisation. He’s been an outstanding player for us this year and he’s certainly put his hand up for higher duties and I think we’ll see that at the start of the international season,” Larkham said.

“He’s someone that gives a lot of players around him confidence. He’s got a really good handle on the way that we want to play and he’s got a really good skill set.”

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