Rugby-Wunderkind Jorgensen firms as Wallabies World Cup prospect

  • Rugby
  • Wednesday, 24 May 2023

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Max Jorgensen's most complete performance in a New South Wales Waratahs shirt last Saturday night further slashed the odds on the outside back being unleashed in Wallabies gold before his 19th birthday in September.

Less than a year out of school, Jorgensen was expected to spend this Super Rugby Pacific season learning his craft as an understudy to Kurtley Beale - the 95-cap fullback who was the last teen prodigy to emerge from Sydney's St Joseph's College.

Beale has been unable to play this year because he faces a sexual assault charge, which he denies, and Jorgensen was therefore thrown straight into the Waratahs team to make his debut in the season-opener against the ACT Brumbies.

He has not disappointed.

Two tries in that match, the first when he somehow slipped his slender frame between two hulking Wallabies forwards and the second a classic winger's finish in the corner, have been followed by two more in nine further appearances.

While he failed to cross in last Saturday's 32-18 win over Fijian Drua, a victory which ensured the Waratahs a spot in the post-season playoffs, Jorgensen looked thoroughly at home at fullback and was involved in four of the team's five tries.

The 18-year-old was a threat every time he injected himself into the backline, showing off not only his impressive speed and balance but also a maturity in choices about when to pass, kick or take a tackle.

"He did some great things in attack," Waratahs coach Darren Coleman said of the Man of the Match.

"He's picking his times on when to run back, and he's getting offloads away, if not tackle breaks. So he's warming into it."

It might appear premature for a teenager to attract such excitement after only 10 Super Rugby outings, but Australian rugby has been in such doldrums in recent years that anything that offers optimism for the future will be leapt upon.

Rugby Australia most recently made a big splash on the back pages when they signed 19-year-old Joseph Suaalii from rugby league on a big-money deal for the 2025 season.

As one media pundit noted on Wednesday, Suaalii will need to be on his game if he is to claim the number 15 shirt at the Waratahs and Wallabies given Jorgensen's increasingly obvious talent.

The incumbent Wallabies fullback is a third product of the St Joseph's College rugby nursery, Tom Wright, who moved to the back after his ACT Brumbies team mate Tom Banks left for Japan and ineligibility.

Jorgensen, Andrew Kellaway and Jordan Petaia, once a highly-lauded prodigy himself, were the other players who can fill the role named in Eddie Jones's first Wallabies training squad in April.

Jones has always been of the "if you are good enough, you are old enough" school and Jorgensen knows he has his father to lean on for advice should he make the cut for the Rugby Championship or the World Cup later this year.

Peter Jorgensen, an elusive winger who was briefly a club mate of Jones at Randwick, was 19 when he made his Wallabies debut against Scotland in 1992.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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