Early Wallabies return a boon in short Super Rugby preseason

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australia's Super Rugby teams will be back in action in early January for 2020 trials but the blow of the new start date will be softened somewhat by the early return of each franchise's Test players.

Wallabies players enter their annual leave period after the final Test of each season, a match that normally falls as late as early December, but that is very different this year.

With Australia's World Cup quarter-final exit, the Wallabies group will be back in training next week, with more than a month until the first Super Rugby match.

In the past, some Wallabies have had barely two weeks of training in January before trials but this year many will have been with the squads for close to a month, not including a brief Christmas break.

Some, including Brumbies hooker Folau Fainga'a and Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty, have already spent time on the training field ahead of the 2020 season but full squads will be reunited next week.


Rebels coach Dave Wessels said it would be handy to have the entire group together and he was keen to see the new faces pile some pressure on their more experienced teammates.

"Certainly  it means they are spending more time in combinations that will play a lot together during the year," he said.

"I've met up with a lot of those players in the last couple of weeks and they're all looking very fit and healthy and all really keen to get stuck into the season which is been  really exciting to hear.

"I think there’s probably more depth in our squad than in previous years and I’m really pleased with the new faces.

"A lot of them have Super Rugby experience and they'll put a lot of healthy pressure on the others."

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The Rebels, probably more than some of their interstate counterparts, are heading into 2020 with consistency at a leadership level.

Haylett-Petty is expected to be retained as captain while Wessels enters his third year as coach and CEO Baden Stephenson his second full year in that role.

Stability has been somewhat of a rare luxury for the Melbourne franchise in the past and Wessels said he 

"I think the great thing is we have a fair bit of continuity... it's the first time in Rebels history that we're going in with the same captain, coach and CEO, which is a crazy thought," he said.

"Certainly we've got lots of players that have played for us regularly, we feel like we have less turnover than a lot of teams so it's nice to come into the mix and hit thr ground running.

"I think in our first season the way things happened it was all kind of last minute, trying to get a team on the field. Last year, we were able to be much clearer abour the way and identity we wanted to have,  so it's nice to come into the season with a lot of those ideas and now it's just a case of developing."

The Rebels, Reds and Waratahs will all play two trials leading into the 2020 season while the Brumbies play just the one - a full squad double-header against the Rebels in Albury.

Wessels said having Test players in the mix earlier in the piece wouldn't necessarily mean full-strength trial outfits being rolled out.

"Every player is probably different, have to be cognizant of what we’re doing in the early rounds of Super Rugby, with a trip to Japan and a six-day turnaround into the Brumbies in Canberra," he said.

"We want to get people match ready but it’s probably done on a case by case basis and particularly certain positions about who will be starting, trials will give you the chance to see different options."

SUPER RUGBY TRIALS

Reds

Weekend of January 18 - TBC

Friday January 24 - Reds vs Waratahs, Dalby

Waratahs

Friday January 17 - Waratahs vs Highlanders, Leichhardt Oval

Friday January 24 - Reds vs Waratahs, Dalby

Rebels

Weekend of January 18 - TBC

Thursday January 23, 3:45pm  - Rebels vs Brumbies, Albury

Thursday January 23, 6:15pm  - Rebels vs Brumbies, Albury

Brumbies

Thursday January 23, 3:45pm - Rebels vs Brumbies, Greenfield Park, Albury

Thursday January 23, 6:15pm  - Rebels vs Brumbies, Greenfield Park, Albury