Rugby

‘Simple as that’: Why Carter Gordon should be in Wallabies frame despite defection, ‘outstanding’ Noah backed despite Blues blow

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Carter Gordon’s decision to quit rugby at the end of the year should not stand in the way of Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt selecting him if he can help win Tests in 2024 – but care should be taken over how he’s treated with the future in mind.

That’s the verdict of former Wallabies Stephen Hoiles and Tim Horan after Australia’s Super Rugby challenge ended at the semifinal stage on Friday night with the ACT Brumbies’ loss to the Blues.

Australian attention now turns to the Wallabies and Schmidt’s first squad. The new coach has a decision to make on Gordon, who is off to the NRL and the Gold Coast Titans in 2025.

It appears Schmidt has already decided Gordon’s fellow NRL convert Mark Nawaqanitawase is surplus to requirements this season and the departing winger is being given a shot at making Australia’s sevens team for the Paris Olympics.

“I think it’s horses for courses. We’ve probably got more depth in those positions than we do at No. 10, so I’m completely fine with the Wallabies staff feeling like they don’t want to have Mark Nawaqanitawase in the squad, but they do feel they need Carter Gordon,” said Hoiles on Stan Sport.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“We’ve got to win Wallabies games, it’s as simple as that. He’s here to the end of the year. I understand both sides of it, but I want to support a Wallabies side that’s picking their best players and winning.”

Hoiles said he understood the tough position Gordon had been placed in with his Rebels team “terminated” and the pressure on him to to move to the Waratahs when his heart was set on a return to Queensland.

Hoiles also sounded a warning that whatever the Wallabies decide, they need to have an eye on the future.

“There’s a number of factors there. I hope he exits the game in the right way, so therefore he thinks about coming back to the Wallabies at some stage,” Hoiles said.

Wallabies great Tim Horan said Gordon’s Wallabies future comes down to whether Schmidt rates Ben Donaldson or Tom Lynagh as a suitable back up to No.1 choice Noah Lolesio.

“If it’s 50-50, you’re probably not picking Carter Gordon, you’re picking the next player, whether it’s a Ben Donaldson or a Tom Lynagh and finding out, can those guys be part of the Wallabies moving forward? But if it’s a long distance between Noah and the next person, you pick Carter Gordon because fans want success and they want it now.”

Lolesio signed a one year extension with the Brumbies in the lead up to Friday’s loss to the Blues and his performances this season have him as the leading flyhalf in the country for many judges.

But he struggled in a well beaten side at Eden Park – again raising questions over his ability to deliver on the big stage.

“It is tough, and I’m certainly not going to put it on the Brumbies forward pack, but when you’re dealing with that disruption at the breakdown, maybe not getting that gain line ascendancy like you’ve been getting in previous games, for a fly half, it’s tough,” said former Wallaby Cam Shepherd.

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“His kicking game has been very consistent. I thought he probably should have kicked the ball a little bit more tonight, however, in general, I think the one thing I’ve been looking for from Noah Lolesio since he’s returned from overseas was consistency in his game. I don’t think anyone in Australian or New Zealand rugby could argue that he hasn’t found that this year.”

Hoiles said it would be unfair to rate Lolesio on his efforts on Friday.

“He’s not the first No. 10 in Australian rugby that’s gone over there and had a night that hasn’t been outstanding, so you don’t look at tonight’s performance and say he was the reason they lost that game.

“I thought they spent enough time at the right end of the field, late in the first half and early in the second half, to justify getting more points, and that’s the No.10’s job really, it’s to guide your team around. 

Noah Lolesio of the Wallabies inspects the pitch ahead of The Rugby Championship match between the Australia Wallabies and South Africa Springboks at Allianz Stadium on September 03, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“So while he didn’t impose himself, I don’t think he took a step backwards, and I think that’s the great challenge for anyone in Australian rugby.

“Joe Schmidt would have been watching that game with curiosity to see which of the players here are going to stand up, because that’s as close as you get to the challenge of playing at those sort of venues.

“Noah’s had an outstanding season, and with all that’s gone on in Australian rugby in the last 48 hours, it’s been pivotal that he’s re-signed with the game for another year.”

Schmidt is expected to name his first squad next weekend, although a timeline has yet to be confirmed.

Hoiles picked Rebels lock Josh Canham as his bolter.

“Josh Canham has played well enough in the position he’s in to justify being involved in that squad. The Brumbies’ inability to put pressure on the opposition lineout, it’s a part of the game in Test football that’s so important.

“I’ve liked his work around the field and his offloading ability for a number of years. Under Geoff Parling, the forwards coach for the Rebels, who is also the Wallabies forwards coach, they’ve got a good combination going and they’re working well.

“He’s getting about two or three steals a game defensively in the lineout. I think he’s ready to be there in the mix.”

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