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The players set to profit from Wales' new gameplan

With the Pivac era now a distant memory, Warren Gatland has a rich seam of talent to select from in the Six Nations

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'Why not ask more of a kid who has a ceiling that I think is almost infinite'

By Finn Morton
CARDIFF, WALES - NOVEMBER 26: Mark Nawaqanitawase of Australia goes over to score their side's third try during the Autumn International match between Wales and Australia at Principality Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Rising star Mark Nawaqanitawase has only played three Test matches in Wallaby gold, but the talented winger is already being touted as a superstar of tomorrow – he’s been that good.

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Nawaqanitawase’s rise to Wallaby gold is a story unlike any other, but it’s a testament to his brilliance on the field and his determination and passion off it.

While the 22-year-old wasn’t initially part of the Waratahs Super Rugby squad for this season, he went on to make his Test debut before the end of the year.

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Australia has some truly talented outside backs including Suliasi Vunivalu, Andrew Kellaway and Jordan Petaia, but Nawaqanitawase has quickly emerged as Dave Rennie’s best options out wide.

Nawaqanitawase was one of the Wallabies’ best players during his international debut a few weeks ago against Italy, and he carried that form into his next two Test matches.

The Wallabies had their backs up against the wall against Wales last weekend, but the exciting winger was a catalyst for his side’s incredible comeback victory.

Australia were trailing one of their traditional rivals by 21 points midway through the second half, before Nawaqanitawase crossed for two tries in 10 minutes – and later was named the player of the match.

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While the hype is well and truly real, the possible World Cup bolter has a big year ahead of him in 2023.

Speaking on Between Two Posts, Stan Sport commentator Sean Maloney said Nawaqanitawase has the potential to go “really far and take the game with him.”

“Let’s get into Marky Mark and this is always the thing, let’s not overhype him, let’s not talk him up too much,” Maloney said.

“Why not? Why not put pressure on, why not ask more of a kid who has a ceiling that I think is almost infinite at that level.

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“There’s a responsibility somewhere inside either his circle or inside the Wallabies or Waratahs circle that manages that expectation and keeps it balanced.

“From a broadcast and media perspective you’ve got to latch onto guys like this because you know and I know and we all know that for so long now we’ve struggled to establish a wide range of household names.

“That’s factual, there’s no debating that outside of our own sport.

“He has the potential, the looks, the play to go really, really far and take the game with him.”

While the Wallabies were able to end their season with a win – thanks to Nawaqanitawase’s brilliance – their record this season hasn’t been great.

Australia have been competitive in a lot of Test matches against some very good teams, including thrilling losses to France and Ireland, but they’ve been unable to win consistently.

After beginning their season with a two-point win over rivals England in Perth, the men in gold lost six of their next eight internationals before heading to Europe.

But with the emergence of Nawaqanitawase, former Wallaby Morgan Turinui spoke about the possible backline that coach Dave Rennie may play next year.

“Think about it in your mind how that Wallaby backline will look to form next year. I could see him pushing over the right hand side with Marika Koroibete’s return,” Turinui said.

“I think he’ll play right wing at the Tahs, more time over there so he’s always been traditionally a right winger.

“I still think (Dave) Rennie will like (Nic) White but gee Tate (McDermott), a couple of times and some of the things that he does.

“Quade (Cooper) will be the 10, (Samu) Kerevi at 12, (Len) Ikitau at 12.”

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RUGBYPASS+ Is Welsh belief growing with the return of Warren Gatland? Is Welsh belief growing with the return of Warren Gatland?
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