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'He's ready': Campbell backs teammate for gold as fullback mounts own selection and contract extension case

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4 days ago
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As Jock Campbell modestly played down his chances of a Wallabies recall, the in-form Queensland fullback threw his weight behind rising fly-half Tom Lynagh’s hopes of a maiden call-up.

After another eye-catching season, second-year playmaker Lynagh was the first No.10 namedropped by Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt earlier in the month during a press conference in Sydney.

The first-year Wallabies coach’s comments fuelled speculation Schmidt was giving an early clue that the 21-year-old could well feature in his plans later in the year even if he isn’t given the keys to the driver’s seat immediately.

On Tuesday, Campbell, who has regularly featured alongside Lynagh as his eyes and voice, was asked about Lynagh and gave a glowing endorsement about the talented playmaker’s growing skill set.

“I think he’s developed a huge amount this year from game one to the last game he played just in terms of his voice around the park,” Campbell said.

“He’s a really softly spoken guy; I know there was an emphasis from him to try and be louder and more aggressive on the field and really dominant, and I feel like he’s grown massively in that department, which is big for a No.10 and big for him.

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“Obviously, you see his kicking game is such an asset for us. But I’ve seen him improve a lot.”

Having experienced the pressure of the international environment in 2022, Campbell said he wouldn’t hold any fears if Schmidt turned to him early as one of three possible playmakers for his first Wallabies squad.

“I think more time is obviously beneficial but no doubt he’s ready,” Campbell said. “But experience is never a bad thing for anyone.

“I’m confident if he did get the call-up, if they put the right structure around him, he’d be fine. He’s a tough kid, as we’ve seen this year.”

Jock Campbell says Tom Lynagh is “ready” for an international call-up. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Campbell, too, is building a compelling case not just for an international return but a contract extension.

The issue is whether Queensland can find the money to keep the 28-year-old at Ballymore given Rugby Australia don’t exactly have the money to top-up another fullback given the Max Jorgensen, Tom Wright and Andrew Kellaway are all contracted next year.

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But with Jordan Petaia likely to leave at season’s end, the Reds are certainly hopeful they can present a compelling case to keep him.

On the field and Campbell is letting his actions do the talking.

After his best performance of the season against the Crusaders, where he jumped into first-receiver at times and showed both his long and short-kicking game, Campbell turned on the afterburners by burning the Rebels during their 26-22 win last Friday.

It was vintage Campbell, with his elusiveness at fullback and silky skills one of the reasons Dave Rennie eventually gave him a shot on the 2022 end-of-season Spring Tour.

Although he fell out of favour, and his missed tackle on Damian Penaud stung, his double involvement in Lalakai Foketi’s superb coast-to-coast try showed Campbell’s ability with ball-in-hand and composure.

Campbell, however, wasn’t about to pump his own tires, saying he was keeping his head down.

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“I’ve been happy with my form lately, a bit up and down to start with but I guess that’s footy,” he said. “I’m just focussing on what I can do for the team.”

Nor was he about to bite at whether his stocks could climb following Jorgensen’s latest injury setback.

“Obviously, it’s the end goal [to play for the Wallabies again],” he said. “I don’t look at someone getting injured [with glee], and it doesn’t perk me up.

“It’s in the back of my mind trying to get a gold jersey but I’m just focusing on my own game.”

Jock Campbell is hoping to pull on the Wallabies jersey again. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Reds head to Suva later this week to take on the Drua in what shapes as a must-win clash if they want any chance of finishing in the top four.

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While Kiss is expected to give a few players a breather, Campbell said the Reds needed to “stick to our game plan and tempo” if they were to come away with victory.

Campbell also revealed that one of the key turning points in their season was some greater accountability and an expansion of their game plan following a three-match losing run, which included an unflattering defeat to Moana Pasifika across the ditch.

“We did a lot on personal responsibility on your own game and errors because a lot of errors were individual and not game-plan based, especially after the Moana game,” Campbell said.

“We also looked at our game, we’re learning how Les wants us to play.  

“At the start of the year, we were playing a lot of footy and a lot of ball-in-hand and then teams cottoned onto that, and we struggled to attack against a 14-man defensive structure, so then we looked at how we could flip the pressure and attack in different ways by using kicks.”

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