'Give them time': Junior Wallabies coach pleads for patience as U20s transition to Super Rugby ranks

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The man who guided the Junior Wallabies into the world championship final believes the vast majority of his players can make the transition to Super Rugby regulars - if they are given the time.

Australian U20 coach Jason Gilmore says most of his Junior Wallabies players have the ability to become Super Rugby contributors but fans shouldn't expect the young guns to make an immediate impact in the open ranks.

Australia made the final for only the second time at the World Rugby U20 championships in Argentina last year, falling to France by a final point in the decider.

Several contributors had already made their Super Rugby debuts, including Queenslanders Issac Lucas and Fraser McReight and Melbourne's Semisi Tupou and Esei Haangana.

None were out and out superstars heading into the tournament but Australia's unexpected success has led to great expectation being placed on the shoulders of the young men.

The vast majority have secured contracts with Super Rugby clubs or at least their development outfits.

And while he believes strongly in his players' ability, Gilmore has warned against expecting too much too soon.

"They've had a really good year with the World Cup and it's been good to see them take that form into NRC but most of them haven't played Super Rugby yet and the ones that have, have only played limited minutes," Gilmore said.

"They've definitely got potential to have very good careers but we've just got to be careful of the expectation that we put on them at such a young age."

Australia has had plenty of talent flow through the Junior Wallaby ranks.

But in a year in which there was little success on the domestic or international fronts, as well as other issues testing the sport, the U20s' success resonated with plenty of fans.

The Junior Wallabies' efforts, which included beating New Zealand in the Oceania U20 final, followed by the Australian Schools and U18s' victory over the Kiwis in Hamilton in October, has fans hoping a new era is approaching.

"I think that's just a reflection of where rugby is at the moment as well with our Super teams probably not performing as well as what they'd like," Gilmore said of the attention the Junior Wallabies' efforts drew.

"We had the Israel Folau saga, the Wallabies were a little bit inconsistent and people saw our boys as the good will story in Australian rugby at the moment.

"It's really nice for our boys but probably any other year if there was a bit more success at the top level, I don't know if the boys would have grabbed as many headlines.

"But they certainly did pretty well in a pretty tough environment at the moment for rugby."

A post-World Cup player drain has added to the opportunities available at the four Super Rugby clubs, opening vacancies the young guns will be "hungry to take", Gilmore said.

"I think that's the best thing about the group is they're not shy of wanting to take opportunity and wanting to make the most of it, so it's pretty exciting times for those young boys across the next two seasons," he said.

Coaches needed to show patience though, something Gilmore said all the Super team mentors were aware of.

"They're definitely aware of it. I think the pressure of Super Rugby at the moment is because we're wanting wins straight away and we just need to be careful," he said.

"But just by selecting them, that's not developing them, that's just pitch-forking them into games.

"You don't want to hold the boys back either but if they're good enough, you want to play them but we've still got to make sure that we're building their skills and mental capacity for professional rugby as well and not just putting them out at 3pm on a Saturday and we're done.

"There's a lot more work that has to go into the boys but speaking with all the head coaches around the country, they're all cognisant of that as well."

Gilmore can see the majority of his squad becoming Super Rugby regulars, although for some, it will take time.

"I'd be surprised if the majority of the squad didn't play Super Rugby over the next couple of years," he said.

"Some will do that a lot quicker than others.

 

"Obviously you've got guys like Issac Lucas, Semisi Tupou, that have already started games at that level and then guys like Lachlan Lonergan, Trevor Hosea, who are building into it, who still might be a couple of seasons away but they're going to be very good Super Rugby players with the right development."

Like good wines though, waiting for the development is worth it.

"People from the outside will judge the program's success on wins and losses, which is only natural and in some cases that's fair as well," Gilmore said.

"But if you have a look at guys like Liam Wright, Angus Scott-young, Harry Hockings, Ryan Lonergan, they're all products of the last three or four years of a lot of work that's been done by a lot of staff (from the Junior Wallabies and Super Rugby clubs) and the boys as well."

Where the 2019 Junior Wallabies have ended up

Junior Wallabies 2019 squad

Triston Reilly - Waratahs Elite Development Squad (EDS)

Noah Lolesio - Brumbies

Lachlan Lonergan - Brumbies

Nick Frost - Brumbies 2021

Angus Bell - Waratahs

Darcy Breen - Waratahs EDS

Ben Donaldson - Waratahs EDS

Will Harris - Waratahs

Will Harrison- Waratahs 2020

Mark Nawaqanitawase - Waratahs 2022

Henry Robertson - Waratahs EDS

Pat Tafa - Waratahs

Joey Walton - Waratahs development

Bo Abra - Brumbies training squad

Rhys Van Nek - Reds Academy

Joe Cotton - Waratahs EDS

Fraser McReight - Reds 2023

Josh Nasser - Reds

Kye Oates - Reds Academy

Harry Wilson - Reds 2023

Michael Wood - Reds

Isaac Lucas - Reds 2023

Esei Ha'angana - Rebels

Trevor Hosea - Rebels

Sione Tui - Rebels

Semisi Tupou - Rebels

Michael McDonald - Waratahs 2022

Carlo Tizzano - Waratahs 2021