In the hours after Bledisloe I, Noah Lolesio was fuming.
The rest of Australia might have been left shell-shocked and, to a certain extent, on cloud nine after the Wallabies’ gripping 16-16 draw in Wellington. It was, after all, the Wallabies’ best result against the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001.
But Lolesio was left ruing what might have been.
And you can hardly blame him either.
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Twice in Super Rugby he had left everyone, including his Brumbies coach Dan McKellar bewildered, by effortlessly landing drop goals. Those sorts of plays have been left to the Welsh and Springboks and Dan Carter in years gone by, but not even the current crop of All Blacks have recognised the value of slotting three points.
Remember Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell in 2019? The playmakers swung the vital World Cup pool match in Wales’ favour with their shrewd field goals to start both halves. They left the Wallabies on the back foot and in Test matches points, however small, are king.
So when the Wallabies were pressing the All Blacks’ line during stoppage time, Lolesio was left to wonder.
“Yeah, I was definitely thinking a drop goal in that first game,” Lolesio told RUGBY.com.au ahead of Bledisloe III in Sydney, where the 20-year-old will make his debut.
In the end, Lolesio, like the rest of Australia, was forced to watch on from afar.
Eighty-eight minutes Lolesio had been nervously awaiting the instructions from the manager to warm up. They never came.
“I was pretty annoyed. It did suck,” he said.
“I knew with five minutes to go I was not going to get on; probably the biggest build-up in my life.
“But I quickly got over it because, at the end of the day, I've got plenty of opportunities ahead of me. Dave (Rennie) told me that after, so by him saying that it meant a lot.”
The frustration was eased, too, by the words of his teammates.
“Pup (Matt To’omua) and Whitey (Nic White) were really good to me,” he said.
“Whitey told me that he got named on the bench three times in a row in Wales and he didn't get on once, so knowing that (helped).
“And Pup was there for me. He sent me a nice message that night just saying, 'head up, plenty of opportunity ahead of you.'
“It's really comforting knowing what those guys are feeling like in that moment because I was pretty down, but knowing that they've been through it as well has made me feel a little bit better about myself.”
The good news for Lolesio is he won’t have to wait too much longer to finally debut.
James O’Connor’s MCL injury has seen Rennie throw Lolesio in the deep end.
But after warming the bench on a wet and wild Wellington afternoon earlier in the month, Lolesio thinks the nerves he expended across the ditch will help settle him for his debut.
“Yeah, well I was pretty nervous when I was on the bench in that first game,” the youngster admits.
“But now I reckon I won't be as anxious or nervous, I'll just be ready to go.
“There's no better way than debuting in front of your friends and family and in this country.”
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