Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has introduced eight uncapped players to his Rugby Championship squad for the upcoming 2023 Test season. In a historic move, Jones has named co-captains for the first time, with Michael Hooper and James Slipper taking on the leadership roles. Let’s take a closer look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s squad announcement.
Dylan Pietsch’s journey is a remarkable feel-good story. The Waratahs winger had previously battled with suicide but has since turned his life and career around. Having represented Australia in rugby sevens at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the 25-year-old has also reconnected with his Indigenous heritage. Pietsch expressed his gratitude for the positive impact of conversations and the importance of having a strong support system.
Josh Kemeny was pleasantly surprised to be listed as a “utility” in the Wallabies squad. Jones sees potential in the Rebels flanker to play on the wing in emergency situations, offering greater flexibility to the team. Kemeny acknowledged his confusion but expressed his eagerness to contribute wherever needed.
Despite some inconsistent performances in Super Rugby Pacific, Ben Donaldson, the Waratahs playmaker, has been named as a utility player by Jones. He has trained at fullback and will serve as a backup for fly-halves Quade Cooper and Carter Gordon. Donaldson was pleasantly surprised by his inclusion and acknowledged the achievement of being named in the Wallabies squad.
Tom Hooper, a versatile and resilient Brumbies forward, has impressed Jones with his performance, especially after overcoming serious injuries. His inclusion in the Wallabies squad is a testimony to his dedication and skill. Jones highlighted Hooper’s tenacity and described his rise as remarkable.
Despite his strong performance for the Wallabies during last year’s injury crisis and his success in Japan’s Kubota Spears, Bernard Foley did not make the cut for the Rugby Championship squad. With Quade Cooper and Carter Gordon leading the way as fly-half contenders, Foley will need to rely on injuries to secure a spot in the team.
Harry Wilson, the standout player for the Reds, once again missed out on a Wallabies squad selection. Despite winning two consecutive Stan Pilecki Medals as Queensland’s best player, he is currently ranked behind Rob Valetini and Pete Samu at the national level. Wilson’s Super Rugby Pacific form has gained attention, and he may still have opportunities to showcase his skills in upcoming games.
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was expected to be selected after his strong performances for Northampton in England. Known for his physicality and ability to play as a lock or blindside flanker, Salakaia-Loto missed out to players like Jed Holloway, Rob Leota, Tom Hooper, and Nick Frost, who can fulfill a similar hybrid role.
Having finished behind Jack Debreczeni in the pecking order, Noah Lolesio was not included in the train-on squad for the Wallabies. This signifies a decline in his status, and it will be challenging for him to make a comeback into the Rugby World Cup squad.
Overall, Eddie Jones has made some bold choices in his squad selection, introducing uncapped players and co-captains. While some players have emerged as winners, others have unfortunately missed out this time. However, there may still be opportunities for the excluded players to prove their worth and earn their place in future selections.
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Hasibur Rahaman is a passionate sports journalist. He covers everything from cricket to field hockey, delivering up-to-the-minute updates and in-depth analysis of sporting events, both within India and on the international stage.