Uelese keen to step up for Wallabies

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies hooker Jordan Uelese says the squad’s young forwards need to ‘put on their old man's pants’ to step up in June.

Uelese is all but certain to be one of the team’s hookers in June, and most likely their starter, but there won’t be any veterans for him to lean on in the position, after the retirement of Stephen Moore and the decision to rest Tatafu Polota-Nau for the Ireland Series.

Rather than fear that void, Uelese said the next generation needed to make the most of the chance to step out of the shadows.

“The side hasn't been selected yet, but I think it's a great opportunity for young hookers coming through to finally walk free...and it's going to be a bit different not having that older head,” he said.

“Last year, I was with Taf and Moorey who are obviously some of the most-capped hookers in the country.

“It's going to be a bit daunting at first but I think it's definitely time to grow up and time to put on the old man's pants and take care of myself.”

The Rebels were left wondering after full-time. Photo: Getty ImagesProbably one of Uelese’s greatest competitors for a Wallabies spot is Melbourne teammate Anaru Rangi, who has caught Michael Cheika’s eyes in recent seasons with the Force and now the Rebels.

Far from being threatened, Uelese has embraced the club competition and said Rangi would be an asset to the Test side.

“I think he deserves a chance,” he said.

“He puts his body on the line, he's just a nutcase.

“He's definitely someone you want in your team, especially if you want to push physicality and brutality, he's definitely the guy you want by your side.”

Queensland’s Brendan Paenga-Amosa, the Brumbies’ Folau Faingaa and NSW’s Damien Fitzpatrick and Tolu Latu are others in the conversation, with Cheika to pick three hookers in a 33-man squad on Wednesday.

Latu's possible inclusion could be the biggest surprise of the lot, with the capped Wallaby struggling to hold onto a Super Rugby starting spot, and past concerns over his attitude, though he is still highly rated by those inside the Test team.

Uelese also backed ‘odd’ teammate Jack Maddocks to retain a spot in the squad, and move closer to a Wallabies debut after being a development player in last year’s Spring Tour.

Maddocks is widely expected to be picked in Cheika's squad, after an impressive season so far with the Rebels, playing at wing and fullback.

“If you get to know Jack off the field he's pretty chill, very quiet and very odd, but I think Jack has been playing awesome footy at the moment.

“He's finally coming out of his skin and starting to take a leadership role in that backline.

“So, hopefully he gets given the opportunity and he'll probably carve up in the Wallabies setup.

Uelese made his return from a shoulder injury for the Rebels last weekend and expects to have more game time against the Blues this weekend.

The Wallabies play a three-Test series against Ireland in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, kicking off on June 9 at Suncorp Stadium. Buy tickets here.