Schmidt’s List: Brumbies continue to lead the way while Force quartet also catching the eye

David Skippers
Schmidt's List image 21May 2024.jpg

Western Force lock Jeremy Williams, Brumbies full-back Tom Wright and Force centre Bayley Kuenzle.

In our fourth instalment of Schmidt’s List, we discuss selection prospects and topics which Wallabies head coach Joe Schmidt could be considering after the weekend’s action.

With Super Rugby Pacific heading towards its business end, there were some interesting results in Round 13 with the Brumbies and Western Force being the Australian sides finishing with victories after the weekend’s round of matches.

While there were superb performances from players from those two teams, which would have made a positive impression on Schmidt, there were also competitive displays from some individuals playing for the Waratahs, Rebels and Reds as well.

Forgotten Wallaby in fine form

Brumbies full-back Tom Wright was the forgotten man of Australian Test rugby in 2023 as he played in his country’s first international against the Springboks in Pretoria, and after the Wallabies suffered a heavy defeat in that encounter, he was dropped by Eddie Jones and never got a look-in again for the entire year.

Wright has been on a mission in 2024 as he has been one of the Brumbies’ best players this year and it’s not surprising that he is amongst the leading players in several of Super Rugby Pacific‘s attacking categories.

The 26-year-old is currently in joint-fourth position for try-scorers (7), second for metres gained (907), fourth for offloads (14) and eighth for carries (111).

At the weekend, he was in fine form in the Brumbies’ narrow victory against the Crusaders in Canberra when he scored a brace of tries and he will be hoping Schmidt rewards him with a recall to the Wallabies squad.

Meanwhile, Wright’s team-mate at the Brumbies, Rob Valetini, continues to maintain his high standards and showed against the Crusaders why he is regarded as one of the world’s best loose forwards as he came to the fore with an outstanding all-round performance.

As usual, Valetini shone on attack and defence and will be a certainty when Schmidt names his first Wallabies squad.

Force quartet’s stocks continue to rise

In recent weeks, the Force have been a team on the rise as they chase a spot in the play-offs and with two rounds of matches in Super Rugby Pacific’s league phase left to play they have moved up to ninth position in the standings, just two points adrift of eighth place which will guarantee them a quarter-final place.

While their entire squad deserve credit, there are certain players who have delivered the goods on a consistent basis and, in doing so, their stocks have risen with regards to Wallabies selection.

‘It’s definitely a desire’ – Kurtley Beale’s bold revelation after shining for the Force

On Saturday, against the Waratahs, Bayley Kuenzle, Ben Donaldson, Kurtley Beale and Jeremy Williams continued with their fine form and played huge roles as they sealed a 27-7 win over the Waratahs.

Much has been said and written about Beale since the start of the year but the 95-Test veteran seems rejuvenated at the Force and has been ever-present in their starting line-up since joining them last month.

His form has been superb and his experience has helped younger players in the Perth-based outfit’s backline like Kuenzle and Donaldson to shine.

Against the Waratahs the latter duo were in fine form with Beale and Kuenzle combining brilliantly for the latter’s try while Donaldson also crossed the whitewash and finished with a 17-point contribution after adding three conversions and a couple of penalties as well.

Meanwhile, Williams has been one of the unsung heroes of the men from Perth’s forward effort throughout the season. The 23-year-old has a high work-rate in the execution of his core duties and against the Waratahs his excellent lineout and defensive work caught the eye during a full 80-minute shift.

Shining lights in losing causes

While the Rebels, Reds and Waratahs were on the losing side in the weekend’s matches, there were some individuals in those teams who showed their class despite the end results.

In Melbourne, the Rebels suffered a narrow 26-23 defeat to the Chiefs but Lachie Anderson demonstrated his outstanding finishing skills as he crossed for two well-taken tries in the second half which saw his side draw level at 23-23 before Damian McKenzie broke the home side’s hearts with a last-gasp penalty.

There were also solid performances from experienced front-row duo Sam Talakai and Jordan Uelese, who were at the forefront of the Rebels’ forward effort and gave their all in the execution of their core duties.

Elsewhere, the Reds faced a tricky assignment against the Drua in Suva and were on the wrong end of a 28-19 result but Tate McDermott can hold his head high as he reminded Schmidt of his ability with an outstanding performance.

McDermott tested the Drua defence with some fine attacking runs and also emptied the tank on defence and was unlucky to finish on the losing side.

Meanwhile, it was a similar story for Mark Nawaqanitawase in Perth as his attacking skills saw him gaining a whopping 178 metres with ball in hand from 15 runs which included two clean breaks, eight defenders beaten five offloads and he was rewarded with a try for his efforts.

Nawaqanitawase is of course joining NRL club the Sydney Roosters on a two-year deal from 2025 and will be hoping to finish his rugby career on a high at Test level for his country.

READ MORE: Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Week: All Blacks duo and Wallabies hard man lead the way