September 25, 2019
Physicality has become imperative in international rugby and few young sensations possess enough of it in those early days
Why this World Cup is bereft of talented teenagers when once they were legion | Ben Ryan
With only 11 Super Rugby appearances under his belt, 19-year-old Jordan Petaia is in the Australia squad. In a group that has more caps than any previous World Cup squad, an average of 45 per man, he’s a bolter. Yet to get on the field and gain a cap – that will probably occur in the games against Georgia and Uruguay – he has been on everyone’s radar since his Brisbane State high school days. It is great to see and fills us with excitement that we may be witnessing the birth of a new rugby star. It also got me thinking. Where are the teen sensations? Are there any more beyond the very rare exception of the young Queenslander?
I remember coaching England Sevens when they faced a 17-year-old James O’Connor playing for the Aussies and he was full of risk and skill. He was to earn the first of many full international caps a few months later. Although he has put on a fair bit of bulk over the decade since, he was not the biggest then and I would question whether he would have got the opportunity so quickly if he was to emerge now.
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