'Red-hot competition' for key role in Wallabies team
SPOTLIGHT: Having previously delivered under pressure against Italy, Wallabies scrumhalf Jake Gordon is relishing another crack in the No.9 jersey.
With coach Dave Rennie rotating Gordon, Nic White and Tate McDermott in the starting side through their five-Test European tour, the Waratahs skipper gets his turn in Florence on Saturday.
The Wallabies are looking to rebound from a last-gasp loss to Six Nations champions France, who scored a try in the dying minutes to snatch a one-point victory.
Australia last played Italy in 2018 in Padua when Gordon, on debut, was surprisingly thrust into the starting role by then-coach Michael Cheika but helped steer the Wallabies to a 26-7 win.
The Wallabies are unbeaten against the Azzurri in 18 matches.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity against Italy; I made my debut here back in 2018 so I have pretty fond memories,” Gordon told reporters.
“I thought I’d get a few minutes off the bench but I ended up starting the game … to get the opportunity and then to have a good win was awesome.”
The 29-year-old felt he’d added strings to his bow since that first outing, improving his passing and kicking game as well as his leadership skills after captaining the Waratahs.
Gordon has no qualms about the rotation policy, with Rennie up-front about his indecision on the best fit at halfback for the team for next year’s World Cup.
Gordon said he didn’t feel any extra pressure that the Italy Test start was a final audition.
“Obviously the competition is pretty red-hot at the moment,” Gordon said.
“Tate [against Scotland] and Nic [against France] both played really good games … that’s the luxury that we’ve got, we’ve got really good halfbacks in the country who are desperate to play footy.
“I just say see it as another opportunity to play well – I’m not too focused about the rotation and thinking this is my last opportunity.”
Who will partner Gordon in the halves will be revealed on Thursday with Bernard Foley at 10 for the opening two Tests.
Rennie did forecast personnel changes, saying he wanted to “share the load” through the tour.
Gordon said his history with other flyhalves in the squad, and the way they trained meant the transition was fairly seamless.
“I’ve played with Donno [Ben Donaldson] the last two or three years, I’ve played four or five years with Bernard and me and Noah [Lolesio] have started multiple Tests together.
“You get a pretty good feel for guys at training, it’s not just the game so you get pretty familiar with the guys.”
He said the Wallabies were still hurting from the 29-30 loss to world No.2 France in Paris.
“Everyone’s still disappointed by that result since we dominated a lot of the game and put ourselves in a position to win it,” Gordon said.
“There were definite positives from that game – the length-of-the-field try, the forward pack did a great job throughout the night, it was just disappointing in that last five minutes we let it slip.”