Big-bodied Uelese wants to throw weight around

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

It’s hard to imagine a 189cm, 122kg forward being physically intimidated but new potential Wallabies debutant Jordan Uelese wants to ensure he’s no pushover against the Springboks.

Uelese has been named as reserve hooker for this weekend’s clash, after just 28 minutes of Super Rugby time this season, in a huge show of support from Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

Though he’s just 20, Uelese is not lacking in size and it’s that which he wants to make the most of if he has a chance to fulfil his dream on Saturday night.

“I think the South Africans are going to bring a bit of punch and they obviously base the game on physicality, so having a few extra kilos does help with the hits,” he said.

“I think that's the mentality as a forward pack we've  got this week is just bringing the physicality and matching them, not getting bullied around, I suppose, so I think that's something we're going to take through to the game on the weekend.”

The Rebels rookie was ‘ecstatic’ to learn of his debut this week, a turn of events that he would never have anticipated at the start of the season, still awaiting a top-flight debut.

“I’m really stoked to have the opportunity and something I've been working towards since we came into camp in Newcastle and for him (Cheika) to instil his belief in me, to come off and play that vital role as a finisher is immense and a really proud moment for me," he said.

It was his U20s campaign in 2016 where Cheika first took note of the emerging hooker, with another impressive junior stint only cementing that this season.

“I was probably surprised he didn't get more starts down in Melbourne this year, but again in this year's 20s tournament he was excellent and...he's not a quiet guy.

“There's so many players these days that are quiet within themselves, he's prepared to put himself out there and I like that.

“I see so much potential in him.

“He's a very strong scrummager, he's strong in the physical contest and I figure this is a great opportunity to see him against a team that is renowned for that part of their game.”

Jordan Uelese is in line for his Wallabies debut. Photo: WalmsleyUelese’s thirst for knowledge, and fearlessness when it comes to picking the brains of veteran hookers Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau, has helped him find the assuredness he’ll need on Saturday night, and improve rapidly.

Polota-Nau’s own foray into Test rugby is not that far removed from Uelese’s, having debuted 2005 before playing a Super Rugby match, but his state of mind was pretty far removed from his younger counterpart.

“His energy in the squad is just immense and that's one thing when I was young, I didn’t really have, but over time worked in,” he said.

Polota-Nau will be packing down with Sekope Kepu from the outside, in a shift from their last encounter at nib Stadium, when the Force hosted the Waratahs.

“The last outing was over here at nib and I was just talking smack to him all game,” he said.

“So (it will be) good to have him by my side and hopefully we can talk smack together against the Boks.”

The Wallabies take on the Springboks on Saturday night, kicking off at 6pm AWST, 8pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS, TEN, Win and RADIO. Buy tickets here.