Cheers to Phil: Waugh's leadership the missing ingredient but Wallabies could do with a 'secret sauce'
G'day Rugby fans, Barry here, and let me tell you, the latest move by Rugby Australia is like a breath of fresh air in…
Back in February one rising coach asked Eddie Jones if he thought he would see much of Max Jorgensen in Shute Shield this year.
Jones couldn’t help but chuckle. He is said to have shot back that if the Roosters wanted him, he won’t be seen in club rugby but quickly for the Waratahs.
Turns out Jones was right. And some.
Having taken Super Rugby by storm, scoring a double on debut on the opening weekend of the tournament in February, Jones pulled a rabbit out of the hat by naming the 18-year-old in his Rugby World Cup squad on Thursday and bypassing the Shute Shield competition altogether.
Back in early May, his selection would not have been as surprising.
After all, he had been one of the shining lights in a miserable Waratahs campaign.
But given Jorgensen hadn’t been sighted since May 27 after partially rupturing his ACL against the Crusaders in Christchurch, it was thought that the talented teen would be little chance to recover in time.
“I don’t think you can take him,” former Wallaby turned pundit Morgan Turinui said on Stan Sport’s Rugby Heaven following his injury.
“Nope. Let him get it right. What is it? June, July, August, it’s the 1st of September, you’re on the plane, you’re not playing the French warm-up game in August, you maybe get picked sight unseen.
“His career is going to be long if we take care of him.”
Tim Horan added: “Without the knee injury, he would have been on the plane, but now I just don’t think you can take him. You can’t rush a kid who’s 18 with a knee injury like that.”
But Jones has thrown the rulebook out, selecting the prodigious talent, whose Wallaby father Peter played alongside him at Randwick before moving to the Sydney Roosters and later the Penrith Panthers in the NRL.
It comes despite Jorgensen only returning to running in the past three week.
Insiders say he had only had six sessions by the start of the week.
Yet, Jorgensen’s ability and potential have seen him rewarded with one of 33 plane tickets to France.
Earlier this year, the Super Rugby rookie became the first Waratahs player to score in his first three matches.
His double on debut showed his composure and ability to find the tryline, while he also showed his durability and robustness to score against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
That finishing ability saw Jones call Jorgensen up for his April training camp, taking one of his mentor’s lines when probed about his call up.
“He has pace, he has great instinctiveness about him, he has courage,” Jones said.
“He has all the attributes of being a very good Test star and he has made a good start. His challenge is to keep improving.
“I will borrow an expression from Bob Dwyer: it is not about age, it is about whether they’re good enough. And whether they’re good enough is whether they’re tough enough, or robust enough, to handle [Test rugby]. And what I see so far, the answer to that about Max is yes.”
Jorgensen, too, wasn’t backward in going forward either.
“I want to be there,” he said before his injury.
“Obviously, that’s all up to Eddie, though. Hopefully, I can keep playing well and cement my spot in that squad.
“I’ve had a little chat to Graysie [Junior Wallabies coach Nathan Grey], but it’s mostly up to Eddie. Whether he wants to be playing 20s or wants me going on tour with the Wallabies.
“Either way I’m happy. If I don’t get selected in that Wallabies, obviously I’ll be pretty down about it, but I’ve got 20s there, so 20s would be good fun.”
Whether or not Jorgensen plays in France remains to be seen.
With Andrew Kellaway firming to wear the No.15 jersey in an increasingly settled looking back three, it’s quite likely that the burgeoning teenager has been included for experience as much as his ability.
Former Wallabies captain Will Genia said he was excited by the move.
“As soon as I found he was picked, I was pretty excited,” Genia told The Roar.
“He reminded me of when Jordan Petaia was picked in 2019; a young player with incredible and immense potential and talent.
“What better way to grow and learn than at the pinnacle tournament and his selection very much represents what Eddie wants to do as far as using this World Cup as a platform for all these young players.
“Give this young 18-year-old an opportunity at the World Cup, give him all the confidence that he’s going to take from it and you then let him grow into the next four-year-cycle and let him develop into the player that he’s going to become.”