Discarded Wallaby to work for World Cup spot
NEWS: Out-of-favour Queensland backrow Harry Wilson will cling onto hope of winning a World Cup recall, despite another frustrating season in the Wallabies wilderness.
The talented 23-year-old played every Test in Dave Rennie’s first season in charge but has spent the next two on the outer behind Rob Valetini and Pete Samu.
He was left out of last year’s end-of-season tour for strategic reasons and asked to instead build his developing body in an overdue pre-season.
He did that and then starred for the Reds to collect their player-of-the-year gong.
But he only had two more Test caps to show for it in losing causes against England and New Zealand, the timing of the latter effectively ruling him out of an Australian A tour of Japan.
That was where rookie Langi Gleeson shone, the 21-year-old then ironically beating Wilson to a spot in this year’s touring squad and starting in the final Test against Wales.
Ahead of next year’s World Cup, it’s left the No.8 answering the same questions he was 12 months earlier, not that he needs reminding.
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“I’ll leave that between me and Dave,” he said of the feedback he’d received.
“I spoke about that a lot last year and don’t want to talk about it again.
“I feel as if I did [respond last season], so I’m very frustrated.
“The feeling of not being a part of the group hurts and I think I’m good enough to get back in there.
“Rugby’s a funny game so I’m going to have to [believe there’s a way back into the team]; if you go in without that mindset it’s not going to go too well.”
He isn’t the only Reds player with a chip on their shoulder, star flyhalf James O’Connor was also dropped after a loss in Argentina.
Wing Suliasi Vunivalu has also been nudged down the pecking order after a cameo of mere minutes in his sole Test against England.
O’Connor is nearing full fitness after ankle surgery but the Reds won’t have game-shaping prop Taniela Tupou in 2023 after he tore his achilles.
“You can see he’s got a bit of a point to prove . I’ve never seen Rabs this skinny,” Wilson said of O’Connor.
“And a lot of the time it’s said the Reds can’t win without Taniela.
“It’s a chance to prove that wrong and show what kind of team we are when we play for each other.”
The Reds’ 2022 season fell away in a winless back-end against New Zealand sides without the injured O’Connor.
The second iteration of Super Rugby Pacific will see teams from Australia and New Zealand play each other from round one this season though, the Reds to host the Hurricanes in Townsville on February 25.
“A lot of teams are already writing us off thinking we’ve already had our window. That gives us even more motivation to improve,” Wilson said.