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Waratahs No 8 makes big statement to Eddie Jones after having his fitness questioned

By AAP
Langi Gleeson of the Waratahs is tackled during the 2023 Super Rugby Super Round between the Waratahs and Fijian Druas at AAMI Park on March 04, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images for Bursty PR)

World Cup hopeful Langi Gleeson has made a statement to Wallabies coach Eddie Jones, who questioned the fitness of the bullocking No.8 ahead of the Waratahs’ Super Round clash in Melbourne.

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Jones was asked at a pre-match lunch on Saturday about Gleeson’s chances of being a part of the Wallabies’ campaign in France later this year and responded that if he had to pick a team right now the 21-year-old wouldn’t be part of it because of his lack of fitness.

With the master coach watching from the stands at AAMI Park, Gleeson then proved the stand-out for the Waratahs in their 46-17 win over Fijian Drua later on Saturday.

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In his first start of the season and only second ever in 10 Super Rugby Pacific matches, Gleeson scored a try but, more importantly, matched the physicality of the Fjiians with some big carries and dominant tackles.

He still only played 60 minutes but made each of them count, with NSW coach Darren Coleman rapt with his contribution.

“He was a juggernaut today and he showed that he can be a big minute player as well,” Coleman said.

Gleeson said through the week he was disappointed to be overlooked to start in the Waratahs’ round one match against the Brumbies, with Charlie Gamble preferred.

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Coleman was asked whether he felt that contributed to Gleeson’s big showing in Melbourne but said he didn’t think the youngster was upset.

“He’s a really good team man but I know some players don’t like it when you refer to them as impact players or super subs,” he said.

“Particularly that number eight – it’s a pretty coveted jersey – it’s the alpha male of your team in a way so I know he wants to be that and he did a pretty good job of that today.”

But Coleman warned Gleeson, who played three Tests late last year on the UK spring tour, still needed to be eased through the season given his age and inexperience.

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“He’s only 21 and this is his second year of professional rugby and he didn’t even get a full year of pro rugby last year,” Coleman said.

“We’ve just got to be a little careful of how much we throw him out there and let him burn out and we’re super fortunate we’ve got so much depth in the back row that we don’t lose when we put on fresh guys.”

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