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'Hang on': Forgotten Wallaby tipped for big year as Wright reveals 'biggest work-on'

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27th March, 2024
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As Stephen Hoiles tipped Tom Wright to re-emerge in 2024, the electric Brumbies fullback says ensuring he has more positive involvements rather than negative ones is the key to unlocking his true potential.

The forgotten Wallaby was brutally axed from Eddie Jones’ side midway through the home calendar last year.

It came off the back of a couple of costly errors from Wright for both the Brumbies and Wallabies, where the 26-year-old paid the ultimate price of turning over possession in the wrong areas of the field.

But few thought Wright would be left out of the World Cup squad given his ability to conjure up something out of nothing and keep defences second-guessing.

His ability to play on the wing and jump into ball-playing roles was another factor that looked like giving him an edge.

Yet Jones came down harshly on the Brumbies fullback, who spent time with the Barbarians instead across the English Channel.

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Tom Wright . (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Last weekend, Wright delivered a timely reminder of his skill set as he scored two tries and played a hand in another couple, including his gorgeous cross-field kick inside his 22-metre line to a flying Corey Toole to set up an outrageous coast-to-coast try.

The talented fullback downplayed the stunning try, instead saying he was consistently trying to close the gap between his best and worst.

“I always play on the edge,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“In the past, there’s been moments of that and there’s also been the other side of the coin too, where it potentially hurts our team and puts us under a little bit of pressure when those moments don’t come off.

“I’m trying to find that fine line and make sure I’m fine-tuning [that area] to have more positive moments on the team than ones where [props] Slips [James Slipper} and Harry [Vella] are looking at me wondering why they’ve got to go to set-piece again.

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“That’s probably my biggest work-on.”

Wright will face stiff competition for the No.15 jersey, with Andrew Kellaway impressing in the early stages of the Super Rugby competition and Rugby Australia intent on opening the cheque book to re-sign young gun Max Jorgensen. Both players made Jones’ World Cup squad, while Ben Donaldson also featured at fullback.

But former Wallabies back-rower turned coach Hoiles said he was left scratching his head during last year’s World Cup when Wright wasn’t in France.

“He had a couple of big mistakes in two Test matches last year that cost him dearly,” Hoiles said on Stan Sport’s Between Two Posts.

“We’ve got so much going on during the World Cup last year and there was a Barbarians squad. I remember seeing a photo of the Barbarians and just looking going ‘hang on.’

“Why is Tom Wright not in the Wallabies – like six weeks after it was named? He’s only ever been good for every team he’s played in.

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“He had two moments in the Test series leading up to the World Cup selection. Like that’s a huge, quality player we left out of that World Cup squad.”

Hoiles added that Wright’s response from the tough blow was a positive for Australian rugby.

“That can go one of two ways,” Hoiles said.

“Players can spit the dummy and not work hard in the offseason.

He’s a Sydney boy, he was back up and down the highway (to Canberra), doing speed training all summer, working his backside off.

“And, yeah, it looks as though (Brumbies coach Stephen) Larkham’s given them a little bit more of a licence to counter from deep…

“The freedom they’re playing with – he’s just making (winger) Corey Toole look better. He’s helping (fly-half Noah) Lolesio.

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“That’s a sign of a really good player when the players inside and outside you are thriving. I thought he was excellent the other night and there were a couple that got pulled back that could have been tries for him. He’s just constantly threatening.

“He’s going to have a good year for us.”

Wright will get another chance to show his worth on Saturday night, as the Brumbies travel to Brisbane to take on the Reds who boast a star-studded backline including Wallabies back Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia and Jock Campbell.

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