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What Eddie noticed about Harry Wilson, and why Aussies and Kiwis should play a season in Europe

Roar Rookie
7th April, 2023
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Roar Rookie
7th April, 2023
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The omissions of both Harry Wilson and Liam Wright from the first Wallaby squad selected by Eddie Jones are canaries in the coal mine for Aussie rugby.

There is a strong argument for Australian forwards and probably Kiwi players as well, spending at least some formative seasons playing NH Rugby.

Provincial matches against Leinster, Toulouse and Saracens provide test quality opposition, often with test intensity in brutally wet and cold conditions.

Eddie Jones clearly sees those environments as testing grounds for hardened, international ready forwards.

This is especially obvious when you consider the selection of Richie Arnold as well as the reportedly unsuccessful pursuit of Emmanuel Meafou by Jones.

Both players are recognised for providing go forward with static ball. Arnold in particular has increased his playing weight while becoming more dynamic in tight.

Harry Wilson of the Reds is tackled during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Queensland Reds and Hurricanes at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, on February 25, 2023, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Harry Wilson of the Reds is tackled during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Queensland Reds and Hurricanes at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, on February 25, 2023, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

This is in stark contrast to say, Harry Wilson.

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It’s been said that Harry wasn’t selected because he’s a Red. Putting aside the fact he was born in Gunnedah, that is not an objective assessment.

I’m a proud Queenslander and have watched Harry Wilson play, earning the plaudits of astute rugby men like Razor Robertson.

There is no questioning Wilson’s heart or skill with the ball. He plays as a classic number 8, linking forwards and backs. Reminiscent of Bobby Skinstad if you will.

What Wilson doesn’t do is win too many collisions in tight or beat up on Test quality opposition. While it must be noted he was picked out of position in last year’s series against England, he was ineffectual in the carry as well as close in.

Eddie noticed that just like we all did.

An interesting aside is that Jake White and Eddie Jones dropped Skinstad from the match day squad entirely for the Rugby World Cup Final against England in 2007.

Liam Wright was perhaps more unlucky than Wilson. His line out work and leadership are severely underrated. He provides plenty around the field, both with and without the ball.

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But like Wilson, he perhaps lacks the dynamism and physicality that those selected ahead of him have.

So what am I proposing?

A long line of Southern Hemisphere coaches including Graham Henry, Steve Hansen, Jake White and Edward Jones have either cut teeth, matured or resurrected careers in Europe.

Australian cricketers regularly join English counties prior to the Ashes to experience the conditions and do their homework.

Why should Super Rugby sides not have affiliations and exchange programmes with sides in Ireland, France or England?

In my estimation, and I suggest Eddie Jones’, Harry Wilson would benefit from a season or maybe two playing for Montpellier or Munster. Liam Wright might even find a stint at Leicester under Dan McKellar useful.

And this isn’t just relevant for players not selected in squads. Messers Porecki and Schoupp are two prime candidates to play some rugby week in week out against British Lions before the raiding party actually lands!

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It may even be a ‘win win’ all round.

Administrators in Auckland and Sydney could start dangling lucrative exchanges with European clubs in front of young players, not just the Michael Hoopers or Beauden Barretts of this world.

Such exchanges could be built into 3-5 year contracts that require both a start and end playing in Super Rugby.

Young Aussies and Kiwis get to embark on some well paid sojourns while a few grizzled Northern Hemisphere veterans get a long awaited run against Super Rugby opponents.

We saw Geoff Parling play 11 matches with the Rebels after some 14 seasons playing professionally in the English Premiership.

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More recently, Pablo Matera enjoyed an eye catching stint with the Crusaders after three seasons in Paris.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see Peter O’Mahony or Jamie George imparting some wisdom in Brisbane or Perth or even Dunedin for that matter?

To my mind, this solution has become even more pressing and obvious, not just because of player salaries, but because the South Africans are already doing it.

As well as their provinces playing in the northern competitions now, South African rugby also has a large cohort of veterans and aspirational players contracted to European clubs.

Some, like the irrepressible Bizmarck du Plessis, have already played 6 seasons in France and returned to mentor the future Bulls and Boks.

Australian Rugby would be stupid not to look at formalising a new contractual pathway to test squads. And so would New Zealand for that matter.

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