Six big talents set for SRP step up

Naturally 2023 is all about the Rugby World Cup, but before we get to the internationals there is Super Rugby Pacific 2023, the first fully integrated competition since 2019.

“Excited” is a gross understatement.

This article is a follow on from my earlier article about the rising stars of Super Rugby Pacific. 

So without further ado, below is another list of players who Australians should keep a close eye on in 2023. These are players looking to build on a solid 2022 SRP season, and can have a significant influence on their team.

1. Trevor Hosea – second row (Melbourne Rebels)

I must admit, this is one athlete who I have heard a lot about but until recently had never done a deep dive. After watching footage of the young goliath I understand why there is a buzz around him. The 23-year-old lis everything a modern lock should aspire to be. He is feline-esque in his athletic capabilities, he floats like a butterfly in the lineout and stings like a bee in defence.

The vision of him rag-dolling Fergus Lee-Warner as well as Kiwi players is both terrifying and beautiful to watch. He has silky hands and his brutal mindset is perhaps something which is missing in the upper echelons of rugby in Australia. Enforcers are found in all corners of the rugby world, South Africa has Eben Etzebeth, New Zealand has Brodie Retallick, Argentina has Tomas Lavanini… maybe in-time Australia will have Trevor Hosea.

Trevor Hosea of the Rebels gets tackled

(Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

It’s a tall order for a young lock who has had his progression into the professional game hampered by injury. Hosea must step in and fill the shoes of stalwart Matt Phillip and wrecking ball Rob Leota, he must be an old-head early in his carrier. If his grunt can inspire a staunch attitude from his underpowered pack then the Rebels have the talent out-wide and at 10 to do well this season.

2. Liam Wright – backrow (Queensland Reds)

It’s one step forward and two steps back for the young Queensland co-captain. Having earned five caps for the Wallabies in 2019, the young blindside flanker has hobbled into 2023 with something to prove to one person, himself. Wright has over 50 caps for the Reds and is a clear leader on and off the field. It is his job along with Wallabies teammates Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson to make the breakdown their own. This will set a platform for a slimmed down James O’Connor who has four Wallabies outside him in a stacked backline. Wright, like Wilson, has an opportunity to raise the eyebrows of Eddie Jones in a new look Wallabies coaching roster.

3. Hamish Stewart – five-eighth (Western Force)

Stewart’s journey west has been well documented, for good reason. The young playmaker is a traditional 10 and has spent time at flanker, making him a sturdy frontline defender, a trait not shared by other recent Wallabies 10s. Being placed at inside centre, playing second fiddle outside O’Connor meant less opportunity to ball play, but nonetheless, Stewart has been a crucial pivot in the midfield to direct the Reds to some of their recent successes. What he will add to the force is experience, although he is still young in years, he boasts over 80 caps for the Reds, three times the amount of Super games as young gun Reesjan Pasitoa and that will be important in elevating the decision making when things get tough. Hamish has a great feel for the game and if you need one piece of evidence of his ability to hit space just watch his beautiful 15m rushed pass in game three of Australia A v Japan, it is a peach of a ball. Playing alongside journeyman Bryce Hegarty will also allow the young playmaker to have a mentor to help him carry the load whilst Pasitoa is still in rehab.

(Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

4. Lukas Ripley – centre/wing (Melbourne Rebels)

Ripley is the young kid on the block in Burn City. In a backline of budding talent and two Wallabies, Ripley can use his grit and speedwork to be a constant threat to oppositions. Ripley had a stellar performance in the Rebels’ last game of 2022 against the Highlanders, where he carried and defended brilliantly as well as bagging a try by his fingertips. With Carter Gordon running the show at 10 and burly centres in Ray Nu’u and Stacey Ili inside of him, we know Ripley can finish, he just has to make sure he has the industrious work ethic to go along with his raw talent. He has a similar build to prolific try scoring machine Sevu Reece and if the engine keeps on ticking we could see a lot of tries being scored on his wing.

5. Floyd Aubrey (Qld) and Max Jorgensen (NSW) – wingers

These two are the livewires and the new energy to complete the hype around union at the moment. Both shone brightly in their clash in Narrabri over the weekend. Jorgensen had an almost perfect performance except for a blemish in defence. He turned Wallabies winger Filipo Daugunu inside out for a brilliant individual try. Aubrey was electric and showed glimpses of magic in attack and was solid in defence despite being shaky under the high ball. This is the talent of future Wallabies and although their roles for their respective teams in 2023 are unclear, they both have bright futures in the 15-aside game.

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