Tuipulotu or Jurd to don vacant No.13 jersey

Brenden Hertell
by Brendan Hertel

The Australian U20s No.13 jersey has been left vacant after a two-match suspension was dealt to centre Campbell Magnay, following Australia’s 15-10 loss to Scotland.

Head coach Adrian Thompson must now make a call as to who will fill the void, with Australia’s second World Rugby U20s Championship pool match against Italy fast approaching. Luckily, there are two able bodies waiting for their chance to join the starting XV.

“The options are either to put Sione Tuipulotu or Liam Jurd at 13, we’ll make that decision tomorrow ahead of the match,” said Thompson.

Tuipulotu, a product of the Victorian grassroots pathway, is capped at Super Rugby level for the Melbourne Rebels, while Jurd, originally from Toowoomba, started at outside centre in three of the four lead-in matches in Australia. Thompson believes that either will slot into the position without any major change to the game plan.

“Nothing really changes if either player starts. Sione is very similar to Campbell, he is a big strong ball runner, while Jurd brings some catch and pass to the position.”

The team have gone through a solid review process following their 15-10 loss to Scotland. It was determined that the intended game plan that was to be implemented in the opening game was a miss.

Australia U20s will be looking to improve against Italy. Photo: ARU Media

“We want to be able to play the type of Rugby that we, as an Australian team, want to play. We want to be aggressive with the ball in hand.

“We let ourselves down in this area on Tuesday, despite laying a good platform through our set-piece and defence.”

While set-piece and defensive efforts were positives for the Australian side out of Tuesday’s game, attack is the key area that the team need to focus on heading into their second pool game.

“Players need to work hard to get into position to attack, a lot of individuals stood and watched on Tuesday and didn’t work hard in support play.

“We turned a couple of balls over early and we were guilty of pushing passes in the first half, which we’re putting down to nerves. In the second half we didn’t get ourselves into attacking positions to create opportunities, and that’s something we need to improve.”

The message was driven home to the players during a tough and honest team meeting the day after the Scotland game.

“In reality, we had one other hard meeting so far this year after our loss to New Zealand. Since then we’ve experienced a bit of fools’ gold so hopefully the experience from the Scotland game has been a bit of a wake up call for the group.”

Liam Jurd started at outside centre for Australia in three of the four warm up matches. Photo: ARU Media

With a short four-day turnaround between the matches, the Australians haven’t had much time to prepare for their clash against Italy, but Thompson has a feel for what to expect.

“Italy are a similar team to Scotland in many ways. They have a reasonable scrum, line-out and maul, as well as an attacking back-three who can be a threat,” he said.

“I think the positive things to come out of Tuesday night were our scrum, line-out and maul. We need to repeat that effort on Saturday in order to attack the way we want to.”

The Australian U20s will take on the Italian U20s this Saturday, 7 June, at AJ Bell Stadium in Salford. The match will be televised in Australia via Fox Sports, kick-off at 10:30pm AEST.