Young Rebels rise from the pack

World Rugby U20 Championship
Brenden Hertell
by Brendan Hertel

The week leading into the World U20s Championship has seen the Australian forwards go head-to-head at training in Manchester, with selection in the match-day 23 for the first match against Scotland on the line. 

Two of Victoria’s most promising young forwards, hooker Jordan Uelese and backrower Rob Leota, haven’t shied away from the arduous work and Former Wallaby and Melbourne Rebels U20s coach Nic Henderson, who is on tour as part of the Australian U20s coaching staff, has been impressed with the pairs’ efforts so far.

“The group have had a number of tough training days out at Bowdon Rugby Club so far and sessions have been hotly contested considering selection for the first match against Scotland. So far the Melbourne boys have been going well and Jordan and Rob have been awarded with selection,” Henderson said.

For Uelese and Leota, both have come into the U20s program with different challenges to overcome. However, Henderson has seen their hard work and perseverance allow them to continue to develop on and off the field.

“Jordan is new to the position of hooker, he has only made the move from the backrow in the last 12 months. For him this tour is a huge experience but he has developed particularly well over the last four-five weeks in camp. He has a lot of competition in that position with Josh Taylor also on tour, but he is getting better with the more game time he spends at hooker.

“Rob had an injury that ruled him out of the Super U20s Championship and he is getting better with the more minutes he plays, we’ve seen that across the four games in Australia leading into the tournament. He gives us good flexibility in terms of his ability to cover six and eight as well as lock if we need him to.

With both Uelese and Leota, who only celebrate their 19th birthdays in 2016, the pair are still eligible for the Australian U20s in 2017.

“For those two boys this year is a big experience for them considering their both still eligible for the U20s program next year. They’re certainly enjoying the environment they’re working in at the moment and growing in confidence.”

While the team as a whole have worked hard since arriving in Manchester, as well as in camp at Bond University and Narrabeen prior, Henderson is wary of the importance of the team to hit the ground running when Australia take on Scotland in their first match of the tournament.

“Now we need to see the hard work that they have put in over the last four weeks come together in this first match against Scotland. The first game is a really important marker for us in terms of getting us off to good start,” Henderson added. 

The Australia U20s will play Scotland at 2:30am AEST (tonight) Wednesday, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.

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