Don't go into your shell: The Wallabies' message to young gun Lolesio ahead of Bledisloe Test

International
by Christy Doran

As a kid Noah Lolesio was inspired by the "razzle-dazzle" free-spirit nature of Quade Cooper and rather than rein back the young Brumby's vision and flair, that's exactly what the Wallabies want from their young gun playmaker.

"Wisie (Scott Wisemantel) and Dave (Rennie) have been awesome," Lolesio told reporters on Wednesday morning.

"They’ve just said be myself, be the best version you can be, that’s what’s got me here, so I’m just going to try doing that."

It's often thought that Test rugby and Super Rugby are different kettles of fish. That because of the intensity of international footy, the tricks go out the window as space and time are closed.

For Cooper, his tricks worked when he first exploded onto the international scene in 2008, as he scored coming off the bench against Italy.

It wasn't until he suffered a serious knee-injury against Wales in the 2011 World Cup bronze medal match against Wales that Cooper couldn't quite capitalise on his tricks after failing to ever quite have the same trust and speed in his legs.

It just so happens that speed, dancing feet and vision are the same qualities that Lolesio, who coolly led the Brumbies to a Super Rugby AU title win in his first match in two months, possess.

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The 20-year-old, however, also showed that he's got a strong sense of game-management too, as, not for the first time in 2020, he banged over three points with a field goal to help extend the Brumbies' lead in their 28-23 final win over the Queensland Reds.

Such was the commanding performance from the Super Rugby rookie, who earned man of the match honours in the final, that he once again exploded back onto the national radar ahead of the opening Bledisloe Test in Wellington on October 11.

Whether new coach Dave Rennie hands him the No.10 jersey for the first Test of the year is yet to be seen, but vastly experienced attack coach Scott Wisemantel said he wouldn't be in New Zealand if he wasn't on the radar while adding that all four playmakers in the group were in the reckoning.

"Look, we would not have brought him if we didn’t think he was ready," Wisemantel said.

"The thing is you’ve got to play your first Test at some stage.

"The reality is we’ve got four fly-halves and there’s competition. You’ve got young Will Harrison, another guy like Noah, who’s fighting for a start, you’ve got some (old) stagers like (James) O’Connor and (Matt) To’omua, so it’s a really nice balance. You’ve got two experienced and two young bloods."

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The Wallabies only returned to the training paddock on Tuesday afternoon, having spent the previous three days in isolation in their Christchurch hotel after arriving on Friday night.

In the previous week, all the halves had spent time swapping and changing and working on their combinations in the Hunter Valley, and given the short build-up to the opening Bledisloe Test Wisemantel said combinations were important.

"We’ve mixed and matched, so Noah has done reps with Nic (White), he’s done reps with Jake Gordon, he’s done reps with Tate McDermott," Wisemantel said.

"At the moment it’s a really good opportunity to see who matches and who gels with who, and there should be a level of consistency there, that’s what we want, so it’s not only a starting honour, it’s also the bench, the battle of the bench is really important so the finishers and having some continuity there."

Lolesio's journey to the national squad epitomises the youthful tinge spread throughout Rennie's new-look Wallabies.

He was just nine-years-old when O'Connor made his debut alongside Cooper against Italy in 2008.

Last week, the two were roommates for the first week of tour - just days after Lolesio's Brumbies edged the Reds in Canberra for Super Rugby glory - and the youngster said the experience of living side by side with the reborn Wallaby was already having a positive impact on him.

"It was awesome having Rabs (O'Connor) as a roommie," Lolesio said.

"It was a bit awkward for me, especially at the start of camp because we had obviously just beaten the Reds in Super Rugby AU and straight into the same room as Rabs.

"He’s been awesome to me, he easily could have turned the cold shoulder, brushed me, but he’s given me some really wise advice.

"We hardly ever talk about footy in our rooms, we just talk about life in general and what his life learned lessons are."

Lolesio added that having O'Connor, as well as fellow veteran playmaker Matt To'omua, was helping both him and fellow rookie Will Harrison.

"All of us 10s are having really good conversations off the field, get some clarity around all the knowledge and content we have to learn," he said.

"Pup (To'omua) and Rabs have definitely taken the lead there and they also also for my and Harro’s opinion also, so they’re doing an unreal job and it’s just humbling to be involved in this environment.

"We definitely ask what they reckon first. They’ve been there, done that, both of them have 50-plus caps. It’s pretty cool for Harro and I, we started from school and then 20s last year and now we’re in camp."

The Wallabies play the All Blacks on October 11 at Wellington's Sky Stadium in the first Test, before squaring up against them again a week later at Auckland's Eden Park.

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