Reds set to hand rising star Wilson Super Rugby debut against Brumbies

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The Reds are set to pitch Junior Wallabies standout Harry Wilson into the fire against the defending Australian conference champions for his Super Rugby debut.

Queensland name their team to face the Brumbies later today and Wilson is not only sure to be in the match-day 23 but almost certain to start such has been his progression over the past six months.

A standout in the Junior Wallabies' World Rugby U20 championship campaign, Wilson has continued to mature as a player, winning the NRC's rising star award and being among the Reds' best in their two pre-season trials.

His form in Friday's match against the Waratahs, in particular, showed Wilson will be more than capable of holding his own in elite open company.

He has the full confidence of his teammates, including captain Liam Wright, who he will join in the Reds' backrow in Canberra.

"He was probably considered unlucky last year not to get a bit of a crack but he's really bid his time and worked on his skills," Wright said of the 20-year-old.

"I think his no.8 at the back of the scrum has been exemplary as he showed with that first try he scored (in Dalby).

"To be able to reach out on a wet, slippery night and score a try like that (was outstanding and) his running game is pretty unrivaled.

"We're really happy with how he's gone and he's pushing really hard for round one."

Wilson's development has been fast-tracked by being part of arguably the strongest group of young backrowers in the country.

At just 23, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto has 21 Test caps, while Wright made his debut in Auckland last year at 21 and Angus Scott-Young, 22, was called into Wallabies camp early last season.

Junior Wallabies captain Fraser McReight is also pushing to add to the three caps he won last year but will be sidelined for at least the first month of the season with a broken thumb.

"There's about six or seven of us all vying for three spots," Wilson said.

"I've never been so focused, every session just to switch on. Some other teams I've been in you can have a few off days but if you have an off day here, the next training you'll be in the second team."

Wilson freely admits starting at no.8 has been the goal that has pushed him through a gruelling pre-season.

But he still believes running out in Canberra, if named, will be surreal.

"I try and think about it but I can't really imagine it," Wilson said.

"It's something as a little kid, it's all you want to do, you never think you can actually do it and you just watch them for years.

"But now to be (close) to actually making my debut, it's surreal to think about it. It definitely keeps me motivated."

There's certainly a buzz around Wilson. His try early in the match against the Waratahs on Friday night was a stunning mix of skill and strength in greasy, humid conditions that got the best of many others.

But it was far from the only highlight. His workrate and aggression in attack and defence was outstanding and did  not go unnoticed by coach Brad Thorn, even though he tried not to single players out after the win.

"I don't really want to pick anyone out in a trial game but some of those guys have been around for a couple of years now and it's just good to see them grow," Thorn said.

"And then younger guys like Harry Wilson come in - and he's a prospect, isn't he."

Wilson said he tried to block out the buzz to focus on the job at hand.

"There's really no point in me listening to it because it really only matters what I do on the training park and then in games.

"Obviously any positive thing is nice to hear but it doesn't really matter unless I perform."

The Reds take on the Brumbies at Canberra's GIO Stadium in their opening match of the season on Friday, January 31, kicking off at 7:15pm AEDT and LIVE on Fox Sports, Kayo Sports and via RADIO.