Junior Wallaby Tizzano hails West Australian pathway

Oceanic U20s Championship
by Emma Greenwood

It may seem an unlikely method to hone preparations for the Oceania U20 championships but a Gold Coast shopping spree was one of the first orders of business for Junior Wallaby Carlo Tizzano this week.

Originally scheduled to head back to Western Australia after completing the preliminary stages of a training camp with the Junior Wallabies, Tizzano was called into the Oceania championship squad after Jack Hardy suffered a season-ending injury while playing with the Reds in South Africa.

An emergency shopping trip for "a few more shirts" later, Tizzano was back on field but feeling for the mate he grew up playing rugby with in Perth.

"Jack's actually a good mate of mine. It was obviously upsetting (to know he'd miss out) because I've played all my junior footy with him, we were at the same club and his dad's coached me," Tizzano said.

"It's devastating to hear that he's hurt himself and if I can fill a big gap in the team - obviously not on the wing - I will."

Coaching staff have opted against a direct positional switch, with openside flanker Tizzano bolstering the forward stocks from the bench and unheralded winger Mark Nawaqanitawese to start on the wing against Japan in the Junior Wallabies tournament opener on Friday.

Tizzano's work ethic in camp made a great case for his retention though and he is determined to maintain that intensity throughout the carnival in a bid to earn a place in the final team for the world U20 championships in Argentina in June.

Carlo Tizzano has won a place with the Junior Wallabies for the Oceania U20 championships on the Gold Coast. Photo: Rugby AU Media/Harrison Wakeling

I've gone pretty hard at training - I didn't make too many friends actually - and I was pretty happy that Gilly (coach Jason Gilmore) asked me to stay around for Oceania," he said. "I had nothing to lose."

It's an attitude Tizzano has had to learn fast over the past few years.

Injury prevented him from taking his place in his first Australian schools and U18 team and the axing of the Western Force from Super Rugby initially left him wondering what his future was in the game.

But hard work and the enthusiasm to tackle any challenge in front of him led to a dominant club season in Perth, and a second Australian schools and under 18 tour last year to Ireland and Scotland, and Tizzano was a standout in the successful team.

Still aged only 18, Tizzano made a Global Rapid Rugby debut earlier this year and his fitness levels and workrate have impressed the Junior Wallabies staff.

"That's the way I roll, just to make the most of every moment and control the controllables," Tizzano said.

"I got injured and I missed out on a good opportunity and the Force got cut and we didn't know what was going on, but I just thought, stuff it, I'm just going to buckle down and work as hard as I can and just see where we go.

"If you work hard, then it all falls into place."

And he has no doubt there remains a pathway for players from Western Australia, such as Junior Wallabies teammate Michael McDonald, to the elite level.

Junior Wallabies captain for the Oceania U20 championships on the Gold Coast, Fraser McReight. Photo: Rugby AU Media/Luke Marsden

"I think Rugby Australia have done really well with connecting up our academy and the Force with all their pathways since we got cut," Tizzano said.

"I feel like it's been a smooth transition. Especially this year with the academy and the way it's been set up, it's smooth sailing.

"There's definitely a pathway for guys coming through in Western Australia.

"I think there was a bit of doubt (initially) but there's definitely some talent coming through and hopefully more boys can come through the U18s and Junior Wallabies in the next few years."

The Oceania U20 tournament kicks off at Bond University on the Gold Coast on Friday, April 26. New Zealand plays Fiji in the opening match, from 5pm, with Australia taking on Japan at 7pm, streamed LIVE on RUGBY.com.au.