"It's exciting": Rennie's high praise for rookie flyhalves

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Who will be Australia's next long-term flyhalf?

In January, the question mark over the 10 to take the Wallabies through to the 2023 World Cup and beyond lingered as teams prepared to kick off their Super Rugby campaigns.

With Bernard Foley and Christian Lealiifano both heading overseas, two of last year's three Rugby World Cup 10s had all but called time on their Test careers.

No obvious long-term heirs stood out but the potential of Junior Wallabies duo Will Harrison and Noah Lolesio had been noted.

Isaac Lucas, too, at the Reds had plenty of optimism attached to his rise up the ranks.

Rebels flyhalf Matt To'omua looked well ahead of the rest of the pack and even he admitted there was a sense that a hole had been opened in that position for someone to grasp.

With no experienced pivots to call on, NSW coach Rob Penney and Brumbies coach Dan McKellar handed their respective rookies in Harrison and Lolesio Super Rugby debuts as well as a big dose of faith.

Both have established themselves as starting Super Rugby 10s and though their clubs have had varying fortunes in the first chapter of Super Rugby 2020, Harrison and Lolesio have become somewhat symbols of an exciting crop of Australian rugby talent.

The pair have both been in contact with Wallabies coach Dave Rennie and Lolesio was one of the members of the Players of National Interest squad created after the season shutdown.

Speaking on the Rugby Nation Show, Rennie said the two reflected a growing crop of young flyhalves coming through the ranks.

"Both Noah and Will, starting for their provinces and performing really well," he told the Rugby Nation Show.

"I think they've had six rounds and performed really well it'll give them a lot of confidence to come in and run the ship in this phase of the comp.

"There's a lot of other good young men that we're talking to and watching closely but exciting to have a couple of really good young 10s.

"There's others coming through too so i think it's a position that we'll end up with a lot of depth in."

Incumbent Wallabies flyhalf Matt To'omua, who plays his 100th Super Rugby match on Saturday against Lolesio and the Brumbies, admitted his opposite number had the better of him in their last clash.

"Against us in round two, was one of his better games and fair play, they outplayed us and he outplayed me that game so he was great," he said.

"I think me being a part of the Brumbies for so long and seeing him develop through it, you see, they develop their players right particularly in that position.

"He has a dominant forward pack, he plays his role very nicely and then he attacks when he needs to. It's a really good development example, particularly for young halves, he fits a part of the system and you can see that.

"He throws the last pass, where a lot of people don't see it, certain pieces of his game."

They will go head-to-head again on Saturday night

"It will be a really good match up," he said.

"Both of them play really flat and play on top of defences, they've got really good skill sets to make late decisions.

"They'll play an important part. Obviously, Matt To'omua's played a fair bit of footy in Canberra in the middle of winter so he'll understand the conditions and so on as well."

To'omua said the emergence of Lolesio was driving him to be better as well.

"It's exciting from an Australian fan point of view, there's a bit of competition there now, in lots of positions all throughout the league, you see James O'Connor and will Harrison as well.

"We probably looked eight months ago and we probably thought there was a huge void there with the experience that left last year but it's starting to look a bit healthier as the weeks go on."

Lolesio's form has generated plenty of buzz but there is no risk of complacency or arrogance, according to McKellar.

"We keep him grounded," he said.

"He's had some good publicity and he's at the start of his career.

"Great players aren't made off the back of half a dozen good games but he keeps himself grounded, he's got a work ethic and an attitude where he just wants to get better and better every day.

"It's great when any young player comes in and performs at this level. He's had some learnings as well over the first seven weeks of Super Rugby but he knows he's just getting his career started.

"It's nice, he's had a good block to work on his individual game and understand that he belongs at this level and he'd be ready to step up again."

The Brumbies take on the Rebels on Saturday July 4 at GIO Stadium, kicking off at 7:15pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy a Kayo subscription here.