‘Impressive’ Aussie teen Max Jorgensen set for World Cup debut as All Blacks forced to make tweaks
As the Rugby World Cup 2023 nears kick-off, teams are revealing their lineups. The Wallabies are yet to show their hand for their opener versus Georgia. Jordie Barrett will miss out for the All Blacks as he nurses a knee injury.
Max Jorgensen is being touted in Australian media to make his World Cup debut against Georgia on Saturday and scrumhalf Nic White made clear on Wednesday that he had joined the ranks of the teenager’s admirers.
Outside back Jorgensen, who celebrated his 19th birthday at the weekend, looked to have had his World Cup ambitions dashed when he twisted his knee in May, but has fought back from an anterior cruciate ligament strain.
Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has rarely let a team naming go by without throwing in a couple of surprises this season so it would raise a few eyebrows if Jorgensen was included in the matchday squad when it is named on Thursday.
“Man, he’s impressive, hey?” experienced halfback White told reporters in Saint Etienne on Wednesday.
“I had lunch with him yesterday and I had to remind myself that he just turned 19. He’s so mature, such a good competitor,” said the Wallabies senior.
“His footy IQ is through the roof and even just his body, he’s impressive … I was talking to (James Slipper) and we were saying, ‘this guy’s going to be good’.”
Less than a year out of school, Jorgensen made a spectacular start to his Super Rugby career for the New South Wales Waratahs before the injury cut his season short.
He was a threat every time he injected himself into the backline, showing off not only impressive speed and balance but also a maturity in choices about when to pass, kick or take a tackle.
With the wing positions almost certain to be locked up by Marika Koroibete and Mark Nawaqanitawase, Jorgensen is most likely to replace Andrew Kellaway at fullback if Jones decides to give him a start at the Stade de France on Saturday.
Samu Kerevi’s fitness is the other main subject of debate in the Australian media with suggestions he might not be fit to play after he injured his hand against the All Blacks last month.
Assistant coach Neal Hatley, however, said the world-class inside centre would be an option when Jones chooses his team.
“He’s available. Eddie will make the final decisions on that today and tonight. Then we’ll announce everything tomorrow [Wednesday]. But yeah, he’s been training and he’s available,” Hatley said.
All Blacks tweaked
Anton Lienert-Brown replaced the injured Jordie Barrett at inside centre in one of three changes to the New Zealand starting side for the World Cup opener against hosts France on Friday, 8 September.
Barrett has been struggling with a knee problem and did not train this week. So, Lienert-Brown will play his second test of the year alongside Rieko Ioane in midfield for the blockbuster clash at Stade de France.
Codie Taylor returns at hooker after a hamstring issue and Nepo Laulala comes in at tighthead prop for Tyrel Lomax, who needed 30 stitches in a cut to his leg after the crushing loss to South Africa in New Zealand’s final warm-up.
In the back row, Dalton Papalii, who usually plays on the openside, starts as blindside flanker with Shannon Frizell still ruled out by a hamstring issue.
New Zealand were thrashed 35-7 by world champions South Africa in their final World Cup warm-up at Twickenham in late August, the biggest loss for the All Blacks in their 102-year Test history.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Brutal Boks hand All Blacks heaviest ever Test defeat at Twickenham to make RWC statement
They won their four previous Tests to claim more Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup titles and Ian Foster was confident he was sending out a team capable of defending New Zealand’s record of never having lost a World Cup pool match.
“You look at the performances against South Africa, Australia, suddenly we are World Cup favourites,” he said.
“And then it got a bit brutal at Twickenham and suddenly we’re the worst All Blacks team ever. We’ve had a smile about that, and we’re quite excited about it.”
The scene-setting World Cup encounter with the formidable All Blacks and the host nation will kick off at 9:15pm SA time. DM/Reuters.
New Zealand team to face France
New Zealand team: 15-Beauden Barrett, 14-Will Jordan, 13-Rieko Ioane, 12-Anton Lienert-Brown, 11-Mark Telea, 10-Richie Mo’unga, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Ardie Savea, 7-Sam Cane (captain), 6-Dalton Papali’i, 5-Scott Barrett, 4-Sam Whitelock, 3-Nepo Laulala, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Ethan de Groot
16-Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17-Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18-Fletcher Newell, 19-Tupou Vaa’i, 20-Luke Jacobson, 21-Finlay Christie, 22-David Havili, 23-Leicester Fainga’anuku