Auditions to be the next Wallabies standout begin on Friday with the launch of Super Rugby AU and coaches think it might bring out the best of the code.
Queensland Reds will host NSW Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium to usher in the new, five-team, 12-week domestic competition that features several rule tweaks to speed up and encourage daring play.
It’s a streamlined, coronavirus-enforced product freed of the impractical travel to South Africa, Argentina and Japan that put a strain on the traditional Super Rugby model.
And it could have spin-offs when Wallabies coach Dave Rennie picks his maiden national squad, likely to be later this year to play the All Blacks.
“The next three months is a great opportunity for players,” Rennie said.
“I’ve been in close contact with the 30 odd of them (in the players of interest squad) and … had a chance to do a lot of homework and get clarity around the quality of the players and their games.
“But there’s still opportunities for guys to jump in from outside that group, so that’s what the next three months is about really, it’s a crucial time.”
Rennie has indicated his preference to pick Australian-based players and former All Blacks lock and Reds coach Brad Thorn thinks pitting Australia’s best against each other week after week is the perfect indicator of form.
“I think it’ll be great; those guys (in Rennie’s players of interest squad) have been engaged already and you’re hoping there’s a really good brand of rugby played by the teams,” Thorn said.
Thorn will deploy twin openside flankers in Liam Wright and Fraser McReight for the first time on Friday against the Waratahs, while Harry Wilson completes a formidable Reds back row -nwith an average age of 21.
“It could be an exciting time for the national team, seeing some new blood coming through and it’ll flow well (into likely Tests later this year),” Thorn said.
With next season’s Super Rugby format – and the broadcast dollars that go with it – still uncertain, Waratahs coach Rob Penney is aware of what’s at stake.
“We’ve got to make people fall in love with rugby again here and make it a game that people want to spend some time being involved with, so we have a massive responsibility to the greater game here,” he said.
“Every week now there’s going to be two trials for the national team, which will be of a lot of interest to a lot of people.
“Given post World Cup there could be some new faces and the way Dave Rennie is coming in and looking to build into that next World Cup it’s going to be very interesting to see how it unfolds.”
“So everyone has got a different agenda as we head into this component, but it’s state versus state right across every game, it’s wonderful.”