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The Roar


Carter 'stitched up', Noah's 'blessing in disguise': Ex-Wallaby 10's verdict on 'personal' duel and World Cup fallout

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20th February, 2024
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The “personal” battle between Noah Lolesio and Carter Gordon for the Wallabies No.10 jersey is shaping as a highlight of the new World Cup cycle and former Wallaby fly-half Matt Toouma will be riveted by it when it resumes on Friday night.

Gordon’s Rebels coach Kevin Foote acknowledged the rivalry between his 23-year-old charge and the 24-year-old Brumbies playmaker this week.

“It is personal, I think it is personal, that’s the truth of it,” Foote said.

“There’s a new Wallabies coach on top of that, so they’ll be playing for positions. There’s the British and Irish Lions coming, Wales Tests come July.”

Lolesio was seemingly rattled by Gordon’s rise last year, which took the Rebels youngster to the World Cup as Eddie Jones’ first choice No.10. That decision backfired, culminating in Gordon’s early removal in the loss to Fiji and his benching against Wales.

While Gordon endured a miserable team performance at the World Cup, Lolesio was refining his game in Toulon after signing a short-term deal with the French outfit.

It led Toomua, who has played with both youngsters, to wonder if Lolesio might reflect that he was lucky not to go to the World Cup, while saying Gordon was “stitched up” by how he was handled by the Wallabies.


Toomua, a co-host of The Roar Rugby Podcast, said he was keen to see how all the young No.10s fare this season, but especially Lolesio as he tries to win back his gold jersey.

“At the start of the last World Cup cycle, he was probably the number one 10 there for a while and then had a really significant drop off in selection towards the end,” Toomua said.

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Noah Lolesio of the Brumbies scores a try during the round 11 Super Rugby Pacific match between Melbourne Rebels and ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park, on May 07, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

“But he’s gone to Toulon, he had an amazing time there and, from what I saw, he played really well. So, it’ll be interesting to see how he benefits from that experience. I think that’ll do him wonders.

“I’m interested in Max Burey from the Force. I thought he was quality last year – quite a sensible player. Tom Lynagh, I like the way he controls the game, whether or not he gets a first crack at that, we’ll see.

“But I think he’s got that little bit more. Maybe not an offload, sidestep kind of fly-half but just someone who you can build a game around, which I think will be really good.”


Toomua questions the succession planning as the baton passed from the older cohort he was part of with Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley to the younger guys.

“You look how Noah was managed and look at how Carter was managed, and you look at the end of the four years and you say ‘who’s in the better spot?’ and it’s an interesting one.

“Noah was given the reins right from the get go. I know when I was at Wallabies he was given five or six games starting. I think that’s the way to go in terms of allowing guys to have confidence, but I just get quite frustrated how we manage our 10s.”

He gave the example of his contemporary Aaron Cruden, who played 50 times for the All Blacks.

“By the time we played each other in under 20s I had 30-odd Super caps and he had none. The next year he was well ahead of me in terms of his development, a much better player, a much more rounded player, where I was kind of picking up scraps because I’d probably been given too much too early,” said Toomua.

“I just saw that happen again with Noah. He got given a lot early, whereas he would have been much better just to develop over time. Ten is a very hard position, particularly for goalkickers. You’ve got higher line speed tens now, which is really difficult.”


Toomua said he thought Gordon was being well managed “right up until the World Cup then I feel like we lost a year or two of development with him.”

Carter Gordon. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

“He was developing so well, he was physically ready to play Test rugby – you saw that in the way he tackles and way takes the ball to the line, and then I feel like we stitched him up with the World Cup.

“I don’t know if he’s better for that World Cup experience. I don’t know who’s better – Noah or Carter – in terms of experience from that World Cup.

“Carts went to it, sure. But is that the experience that you want to have? Is that really helpful? I’m not certain. It will be interesting to see how both those guys respond because it’s been very different journeys and I dare say Noah might be saying it was ‘a little blessing in disguise I didn’t go to the World Cup’.”

Gordon and Lolesio are both off contract at season’s end.