Young gun Jorgensen desperate to be let off the leash

Fri, Feb 23, 2024, 5:15 AM
Darren Walton - AAP
by Darren Walton - AAP

Unleashing teenage sensation Max Jorgensen was a no-brainer after the NSW Waratahs lost star centre Lalakai Foketi for Saturday night's Super Rugby season opener against the Queensland Reds.

While the Waratahs had been hoping to ease Jorgensen back after a nine-month stint on the sidelines, coach Darren Coleman says promoting the 19-year-old from the bench to start at fullback at Suncorp Stadium was the "obvious" team tweak.

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"Have you ever walked a dog on a leash that hasn't been out for a while? It's hard to hang on," Coleman said on Friday.

"But, yeah, that's Max. He gets it and it wasn't our original plan, but we've got intentions to look after him, and he was going to play (anyway off the bench).

"So it's not as if he wasn't going to play. We've just got to trust the process, and there's nothing medically stopping him from playing.

"He's come through his rehab with flying colours, he's hitting top-speed scores and he's in good nick.

"So there's no issue with that. It just would have been nice to potentially ease him back in."

Jorgensen only made a 40-minute cameo in the Waratahs' final pre-season trial on Saturday after being forced home from last year's World Cup with a fractured fibula.

But with Foketi ruled out indefinitely with a neck injury, Joey Walton has been shifted from fullback to the centres to allow Jorgensen to start in his preferred fullback position.

Jorgensen suffered a serious MCL injury last May before being in line to become the youngest-ever player to debut for the Wallabies at the World Cup in France.

Coleman has no doubt the young gun is ready to return.

"The upside is his potency on the field from the get go," Coleman said.

"Not what we planned, but Maxi was chomping at the bit.

"We had to hold him back to keep him on the bench this week. He wanted to start.

"So we'll give him that shot and we'll readjust as we go, so no excuses.

"We're still putting out a strong team and we're going up there with a job to do and, if anything, we've got a little more spring in our step as far as motivation goes to do well for La (Foketi).

"They've got a new coach. There's always a new-found enthusiasm and excitement when a new coach comes in, and I'm hoping they have a really massive crowd there.

"For my group, they're super pumped to get up there, and I imagine most people are writing us off. They'd be favourites.

"We're going up into a hostile environment and I reckon there's no better way to show our mettle and what we stand for as a team than how we come out of the blocks on Saturday night."

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