Fatigue no factor for Junior Wallabies in world championship final: Wilson

World Rugby U20s Championship
by Emma Greenwood

Standout backrower Harry Wilson has dismissed fears of lingering fatigue from the Junior Wallabies' hurculean semi-final effort, saying Australia's young players are ready for the performance of their lives in the world championship final against France on Sunday.

The Junior Wallabies have played almost 130 minutes of football with 14 men through their final round match against England and semi-final against Argentina over the last week, mounting a massive physical effort to make their first World Rugby U20 championship final since 2010.

Wilson and fellow backrower Fraser McReight in particular have played massive minutes after a red card to no.8 Pat Tafa early in the final pool game against England complicated Australia's forward rotations.

"I think that England game we were planned to go off a bit earlier but in the moment of that red card, we still wanted to win that game, so I was very happy to be able to play a full game there and try and win to the end," Wilson said.

"I was pretty exhausted by the end of it, my body was definitely feeling the first three matches."

Harry Wilson has been one of the Junior Wallabies' most consistent performers in the U20 world championships. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

But with an extra day's preparation for the finals matches - five days in between games instead of four during the pool rounds - Wilson said he was ready to fire again.

The success of this Junior Wallabies group and the Australian Schools and U18 team in its UK tour last year has led to high hopes for future success.

But Wilson knows that is not guaranteed and he and his Junior Wallabies teammates are out to make the most of their finals opportunity.

"I definitely have a lot more in the tank for France, so I don't think I'll be stopping that game," he said.

"A World Cup final, you may never be in a situation like this ever again. So we'll be going out there and trying to smash these blokes and do Australia proud."

The Junior Wallabies face a massive French side that includes several forwards over 110kg but the mobile Wilson, who has been one of Australia's best this tournament, said he saw that as a challenge rather than a threat.

 

"They've obviously got a very, very big side but as a middle forward, that kind of makes you a bit excited because they're not going to be as skillful as other teams," he said.

"They're not going to be throwing cutout balls and running out the back, they're just going to be running straight at you.

"So if we aim up and smash them - which I know as middle forwards we will - I know we can dominate them and that can definitely change the game.

"Me, Fraser (McReight) and (fellow backrower) Will Harris pride ourselves on being able to play a full 80 minutes and right to the end.

"I know at the 60-minute mark, if the game's tight we'll be able to push harder and that's when we'll get the most pay out of it all, I believe."

Wilson's confidence could be misconstrued as cockiness if it was not backed up by an incredible amount of work that has seen the young forward transform from promising player to outright junior star.

Scotto Higginbotham on the charge against the Jaguares in his 100th game for the Reds. Photo: Getty Images

Wilson has been one of the standout players at this tournament, his efforts propelled by a season in the Queensland Reds' top squad that he believes has transformed him as a player.

"Obviously I would have loved to make my Reds debut this year but just being in the squad and training fulltime has helped me so much and just given me so much more confidence as a footy player," he said.

"Learning from Higgers (Reds veteran Scott Higginbotham), he was probably sick of me by the end because I was always asking me questions and just loving being around him because I know what kind of a footy player he is and person he is.

"I just love the way he's always just backed his skill.

"At training I learnt I was that Super Rugby standard by training with these guys (and) knowing that, has given me the confidence here to go and show them Super Rugby standard.

"I'm hoping this tournament has shown them what I can do and hopefully I'll play many Reds games in the future."

Wilson is just one of many Junior Wallabies that are likely to push on to Super Rugby next season and already the group has discussed staying in rugby and creating more special moments.

"I think it's massive if we can stay together as a group," Wilson said.

"We just love playing with each other and we can see how much we're helping Australian rugby here and a win here would make such a big difference to Australian rugby.

"But I know we're all good enough players to not only do this in Super Rugby but at Test level in the future.

"It's just been awesome to show the world what we can do here but as a group, it's not going to stop here, we hope we can all develop into Super Rugby players and then play well there and move on to higher honours."