When Super Rugby returns to Australian shores this weekend, there are a number of up-and-coming players who could push for Wallabies honours by season’s end.
Darcy Swain, the Canberra Vikings captain, might just be the man to replace Izack Rodda in Dave Rennie’s Wallabies squad if he can continue to improve throughout Super Rugby AU.
The product of Brisbane Boys’ College moved to Canberra to chase Super Rugby honours, and soon got his chance. Swain made his debut against the Jaguares at 20-years-old and in the two years since, he’s become a regular member of the Brumbies matchday 23.
Standing at 200cm, Swain has proven himself a useful option at the lineout and holds his own around the park. His leadership, frame and set-piece skillset could prove useful for Dane Rennie and the Wallabies, and a solid 2020 could see him earn international selection.
Another Brisbane Boys’ College product, Trevor Hosea, is set to make his Super Rugby debut for the Rebels against Swain’s Brumbies this weekend. Standing at 203cm, the 2019 Junior Wallabies lock will be up against it when he comes off the bench, in what could prove to be a useful test for both players.
Utility back, Western Force
Bryan Ralston may be a relative unknown now but he does have the potential to set Super Rugby AU alight.
Ralston starred in high school rugby for Brisbane’s Gregory Terrace First XV in 2017, before moving onto club side Brothers in Queensland’s Premier Grade competition alongside Reds player Harry Wilson.
Ralston was the top try-scorer in the competition and capped off his club season with a try in the final at Ballymore. He’s continued his impressive try-scoring form at the national level, scoring seven tries to help the Force win their first National Rugby Championship title in emphatic fashion last year.
With strong ball carrying and a habit of scoring five-pointers, plenty of eyes will be on the utility as he gets his first taste of Super Rugby action over the coming weeks.
Outside back, Rebels
Kellaway broke records in the 2014 World Rugby Junior World Championships by scoring ten tries, which brought him plenty of expectation as he began to progress to different levels of rugby.
The Sydney-born wing has definitely impressed so far, carrying his JWC form into the National Rugby Championship with the NSW Country Eagles, and then Super Rugby with the Waratahs and now Rebels. He’s also spent time playing for Northampton in England and Counties Manukau in New Zealand.
Kellaway was on top of the Super Rugby try-scoring charts this year with seven in six matches before the season was suspended due to COVID. The 24-year-old donned Australian gold for the first time in 2016 when the Wallabies played the French Barbarians. If he can continue his impressive knack for finding the try line, Rennie could look to the Rebels outside back for more matches in gold.
Hunter Paisami was impressive in his break out Super Rugby season earlier this year, replacing Jordan Petaia who went down with a shoulder injury while training in Argentina.
The 21-year-old’s brutal running style has seen him make the Reds 13 jersey his own, showing glimpses of the punishment Samu Kerevi used to inflict on tiring opposition.
Paisami showed promise in appearances off the bench against the Brumbies and Lions, before showing the rugby world what he was capable of against the Jaguares and Sunwolves. He ran for a team-high 78 metres from 13 carries against the 2019 runners up, before another impressive showing against the Sunwolves where he scored his first Reds try with a hard and sharp line from five metres out.
A knee injury shortly before the suspension of the Super Rugby season could have curtailed Paisami’s debut season but the lengthy break means he’s ample time to recover.
With Kerevi ineligible for the Wallabies, if Paisami can continue to develop and click with other Wallaby candidates, then there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be considered for the Wallabies in the future.
The Reds also have some of the best up-and-coming backrow talent in Australia, if not the globe. Captain Liam Wright will line up this weekend alongside 2019 U20s Wallabies captain Fraser McReight, and Wallaby-in-waiting Harry Wilson. All three players, as well as scrumhalf Tate McDermott, could certainly push for national honours depending on their Super Rugby AU form with the Reds.
Will Harrison starred for the Junior Wallabies in Argentina last year, guiding the team to an equal best-ever finish as runners up.
The flyhalf’s first match was against the three-time champions Crusaders, becoming the youngest player to debut in the 10 jumper in New South Wales’ history. He’s since had a tough introduction to Super Rugby, with the Waratahs winning one from six matches so far this year.
Still, Harrison has shown glimpses of what he can do, impressing Dane Rennie with his leadership and playmaking despite the poor team results. He revealed during the week that he’d spoken to the Wallabies head coach, so it’s now up to him to take that advice on board and secure his spot in Wallaby gold.
With Kurtley Beale heading to French club Racing 92, the Waratahs are now Harrison’s team, and all eyes will be on the 20-year-old to see if he falters or thrives.
Another Tahs player who could push for higher honours is 19-year-old winger Mark Nawaqanitawase. Another member of the Junior Wallabies side, he scored the second-fastest try in the history of the U20 penultimate match and carried that try-scoring ability into Super Rugby with four tries before the season suspension.
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