Fewer stars but more polish to next Junior Wallabies campaign, says Gilmore

Oceanic U20s Championship
by Iain Payten

Fewer star names but much better preparation and the coaching input of Wallabies great Stephen Larkham.

Those are some of the ingredients Junior Wallabies coach Jason Gilmore believes will contribute to success for Australia at the World U20 Championships later this year.

Gilmore announced a 45-man squad on Monday who will gather on Sunday for a week-long camp in Canberra. 

Trimmed down from the 55-strong squad who attended the last camp, the aspirant Junior Wallabies are preparing for the U20s Oceania tournament in April and then the World Under 20s in Argentina in June.

Isaac Lucas will play at fullback. Photo: Getty ImagesOnly three players have Super Rugby caps - Isaac Lucas, Semisi Tupou, Esei Haangana - but along with twice-capped Aussie sevens player Tristan Reilly, Gilmore has also named seven more players in Super squads: Ben Donaldson, Jack Hardy, Will Harris, Will Harrison, Trevor Hosea, Fraser Mcreight and Pat Tafa.

A significant number also have NRC experience.

Australia hasn’t made the final of the World under 20s championship since 2010 and the underperformance prompted a re-structure of the Australian under 20s, where a squad was picked late last year after the Under 19 national championships.

With a much longer lead-in preparation together, Gilmore said he believed the lack of star names wouldn’t be a negative.

"I would say we don’t have the absolute superstars we had last year but I’d say we will be a better team and a better squad this year, which is really exciting. We have a few of the boys back from the squad last year,” Gilmore said.

"It just a neater pathway system and it progresses nicely up through clubs to our state systems and then to national level. I am a really big fan of having to earn your representative jerseys in competitions below that, rather than just being picked in national or state teams. 

"It’s great guys like Isaac Lucas, Semisi Tupou and Esai have got Super Rugby this year under their belts, which is great. Hopefully a couple more boys can add to that but that’ll certainly be good experience back in with us.

"The pleasing thing with those guys is that even though we can’t access them with camps, they were part of our campaign last year so they are pretty familiar with the staff and our structures as well, so they should fit back in pretty seamlessly.”

The Aussie squad also contains several players who were on the successful Australian Schools and Under 18s tour of Ireland and Scotland.

"They’re obviously young, so you don’t want to apply too much pressure on them early,” Gilmore said.

"We have to make sure they mature mentally and physically to be able to handle themselves with higher level football.

"But obviously someone like Will Harris has had exposure with the Waratahs through their Super Rugby trials and has done really well. He performed strongly in Ireland and Scotland on their Schoolboys tour, so those boys are coming along nicely.”

Will Harris will captain the Aussie Schools and U18s in Scotland. Photo: Getty ImagesIn his new role as National High Performance Coach Advisor,  Larkham has been consulting with Gilmore and will attend the camp in Canberra next week.

"Steve has been excellent so far with what we’re coaching and how we’re coaching as well,” Gilmore said.

"His brief is to look over the content we’re coaching but just as important is as staff, just how we’re coaching that to the players and be effective as possible. His work ethic and honesty and willingness to be part of the program has been really good.”


Canberra Camp Training Squad:

Bo Abra, NSW

Oliver Barden, Victoria

Angus Bell, NSW

Darcy Breen, NSW

Oliver Callan, Western Australia

Will Chaffey, Queensland

Liam Cornish, NSW

Joe Cotton, Queensland

Will Deardon, Queensland

Ethan Dobbins, Queensland

Ben Donaldson, NSW

Max Douglas, NSW

Max Dowd, Queensland

Will Goddard, ACT

Esei Ha’angana, Victoria

Brooklyn Hardaker, NSW

Jack Hardy, Queensland

Will Harris, NSW

Will Harrison, NSW

Isaac Henry, Queensland

Trevor Hosea, Victoria

Kristian Jensen, NSW

Nathan Lawson, NSW

Noah Lolesio, ACT

Lachlan Lonergan, ACT

Brody Macaskill, Western Australia

Michael McDonald, Western Australia

Fraser McReight, Queensland

Josh Nasser, Queensland

Mark Nawaqanitawase, NSW

Kye Oates, Queensland

Lachlan Osborne, ACT

Ben Paxton-Hall, Queensland

Byron Ralston, Queensland

Triston Reilly, AU7s

Henry Robertson, NSW

Egan Siggs, Queensland

Seamus Smith, ACT

Tristan Stanghon, Queensland

Pat Tafa, NSW

Sione Tui, Victoria 

Liam Usher, Queensland

Rhys Van Nek, Queensland

Jack Walsh, NSW

Joey Walton, NSW

Harry Wilson, Queensland

Michael Wood, Queensland

Finn Wright, NSW


World Rugby U20 Championship

All times AEST

Australia vs Italy, Tuesday June 4, 11:30pm 

Autralia vs Ireland, Saturday June 8, 11:30pm

England vs Australia, Thursday June 13, 4:30am