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‘We don’t forget’: Wallaby expects ‘tough’ Wales 9 months after RWC clash

By Finn Morton
Nic White of Australia looks dejected at full-time following the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Wales and Australia at Parc Olympique on September 24, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Adam Pretty - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

More than 270 days have passed since Australia’s record 40-6 Rugby World Cup loss to Wales at OL Stadium last September. Fans, players and coaches alike were left devastated as the Wallabies stood on the cusp of a once unimaginable pool stage exit.

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For the 33 men selected in Eddie Jones’ squad for the sport’s showpiece event, that heavy defeat to the Welsh is a moment in time they won’t soon forget, but that doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing moving forward.

Nine months have ticked by and coach Jones has since left Australian rugby and been replaced by heavyweight coaching contender Joe Schmidt. Similarly to last year when Jones was new to the role, there’s a widespread sense of optimism.

Schmidt’s first Wallabies squad was officially unveiled to the rugby world on Friday morning, with 13 uncapped players in the mix to potentially pull on the iconic gold jersey for the first time. Then there are others, the veterans, who add something different.

Experience is an invaluable asset in the international arena. Halfback Nic White has been around the block a few times with the Wallabies but remains incredibly excited about another opportunity.

White, 34, came off the bench in Australia’s 34 point defeat to Wales last year and remains wary of the “very tough” challenge the visitors will present during a two-match Test series in Sydney and Melbourne next month.

“Wales, they picked a pretty young squad. A lot of sides are in a different position to us, we’ve got a four year [World Cup] cycle. We don’t quite have that with having the British and Irish Lions just 18 months away,” White told Western Force media after being named in Australia’s squad for the July internationals.

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“They picked a pretty young squad but I know coached by Warren Gatland, they’ll be pretty sure in what their gameplan is and how they’ll play.

“Obviously, we don’t forget what they did to us at the World Cup. We’re right up for a tough task right from the start.”

White is one of three halfbacks in Schmidt’s fresh-looking Wallabies squad. Queenslander Tate McDermott, who started in the No. 9 jersey against Wales last time out, has been selected along with Waratahs captain Jake Gordon.

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There are a handful of Western Force players in the squad along with White, including uncapped duo Jeremy Williams and Hamish Stewart. Veteran Kurtley Beale is also in the mix along with playmaker Ben Donaldson.

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Donaldson was a surprise standout at last year’s World Cup with the then-relatively inexperienced utility receiving Player of the Match honours in the win over Georgia at Stade de France.

‘Dono’ started all four pool matches including two appearances in the No. 10 jersey, and White couldn’t help but smile when asked about potentially lining up alongside his Western Force halves partner at Test level.

“Good to link up with me mate, Dono, and would love to continue that into the gold jersey but first and foremost we’ll get in there and continue to work hard,” White explained.

“It’s about getting in there, putting the team first and building those combinations. We’re coming from five different franchises.

“It’s exciting. It just feels like it really is just the start for the boys from here and we’ll continue to work hard and see what happens over the next bit of time.

“It’s bloody exciting… even at 34, it’s bloody exciting.”

Wallabies squad 

Forwards:
Allan Alaalatoa
Angus Blyth*
Charlie Cale*
Matt Faessler
Nick Frost
Langi Gleeson
Alex Hodgman*
Tom Hooper
Isaac Kailea*
Fraser McReight
Josh Nasser*
Zane Nonggorr
Billy Pollard
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
Ryan Smith*
James Slipper
Taniela Tupou
Rob Valetini
Jeremy Williams*
Harry Wilson
Liam Wright

Backs:
Kurtley Beale
Filipo Daugunu
Ben Donaldson
David Feliuai*
Josh Flook*
Jake Gordon
Len Ikitau
Andrew Kellaway
Darby Lancaster*
Noah Lolesio
Tom Lynagh*
Tate McDermott
Hunter Paisami
Dylan Pietsch*
Hamish Stewart*
Nic White
Tom Wright

Recovering from injury:
Angus Bell
Harry Johnson-Holmes
Max Jorgensen
Rob Leota
Lachlan Lonergan
David Porecki
Blake Schoupp

Australia Sevens:
Corey Toole

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