Wallabies star Tom Wright re-signs with Brumbies in World Cup boost
At long last, Tom Wright’s deal is done.
After months of back and forward, The Roar understands the 25-year-old has signed a two-year extension.
There had been great fears Wright’s deal would fall over.
Despite a breakthrough in March, Joseph Suaalii’s signing on a deal worth an estimated $1.6 million saw Wright’s – and others – contract talks paused.
Naturally, those off contract asked ‘what about me?’
It led to Wright’s player agent, Dave Rawlings, hitting out at Rugby Australia priorities.
“We’re sitting here waiting to get a deal done after the World Cup,” Rawlings told News Corp.
“This is the current Wallaby fullback yet they’re talking about all the NRL players and million-dollar offers.
“What about looking after your own. Loyalty works both ways. Look at the sacrifices the players have made in rugby.
“They all took a 50 per cent pay cut during Covid and didn’t get it paid back like the league guys did.”
But after putting together an impressive season, RA came back to the drawing board. It’s a good thing they did too, with Wright attracting interest in England and France.
It’s easy to understand why.
Wright is the most improved Australian player.
Once a talented though error-riddled outside back, Wright has suddenly become the most exciting and threatening fullback in the country.
The extraordinary aspect of Wright’s brilliant season is it is his first full season at fullback, with Tom Banks previously being preferred in the role.
A series of injuries during last year’s three match series against England, including Banks’ devasting arm-injury in Perth and Jordan Petaia’s concussion in Brisbane in the opening seconds of the second Test, saw Wright catapulted into the fullback position.
His worth at No.15 has taken on even more significance with news that Petaia has a wrist injury that has required surgery and rules him out of the rest of Super Rugby Pacific.
Wright showed glimpses of what he was capable of against England despite playing on the edge.
A week later however he was back on the wing and finished off a sublime try on the eastern touchline.
While he once again moved to fullback in Argentina, Wright’s inexperience was found out as the errors returned before finishing the year in the No.15 jersey after more players went down.
But in 10 matches this year, Wright has shown the benefits of having a ball player in the No.15 jersey.
The Brumbies have become one of the most lethal counterattacking sides this year and Wright, who spent time at the Manly Sea Eagles as a five-eighth, has been at the forefront of their attacking surge.
Just last Sunday he showed what he’s capable of, splitting the Rebels’ defence from a kick return and linking up with his fly-half Noah Lolesio for a marvellous try.
Whether Wright is Eddie Jones’ first-choice to wear the No.15 jersey at the World Cup remains to be seen.
Rebels fullback Andrew Kellaway is another contender and appeared to be in Jones’ leadership group when the Wallabies came together for the first time under the new regime.
But whether or not he is a fullback remains to be seen, with Kellaway’s positional awareness still a work-on despite his safe pair of hands and ability to finish.
David Campese-favourite Jock Campbell meanwhile will get the chance to prove his worth when he starts at fullback against the Chiefs on Friday night.
But given Wright’s form to date this season, the Brumbies fullback is in pole position to run out against the Springboks in the No.15 jersey in the Wallabies’ first Test of the year on July 9.
Having signed on for another two years, a strong Super Rugby finals campaign next month could seal the deal.
Meanwhile, AAP reports Petaia’s Rugby World Cup hopes have suffered a blow after he underwent surgery to repair a ligament injury in his wrist, ruling him out of the rest of the Super Rugby Pacific season.
He has been in career-best form this season to force his way into Eddie Jones’ Wallabies selection plans despite the great depth in those positions.
In nine games, sharing the fullback and wing duties with Jock Campbell, he’s scored a team-high seven tries and 10 line breaks.
But, having finally enjoyed a clean run of health after constant injuries, Petaia has been struck down again.
The 23-year-old had surgery on Thursday, the Reds confirming to AAP he will not feature again in a season that includes four more regular-season games and possible finals.
The full recovery time is yet to be confirmed but at the very least it leaves Petaia battling to be fit for the Wallabies’ first Test since Jones’ return, in just eight weeks against South Africa in Pretoria.
“It’s a shame; he’s been playing really good footy and finally had a season where he’s strung together a lot of games without the niggling injuries,” Reds co-captain Liam Wright said.
“He’s one we’re going to miss and we wish him all the best for his recovery.”
Petaia debuted at the 2019 World Cup, starring as a 19-year-old in a win over Uruguay.
He then made history by becoming the youngest player to start a World Cup game at inside centre, in the quarter-final loss to England.
Since then his run has been curbed by a variety of injuries, but he still slowly morphed into a potent fullback option for Brad Thorn’s Reds.
Petaia was concussed in the opening minutes when handed a start in the Wallabies’ No.15 jersey last year in what appeared to be a short-lived experiment.
But he’s been one of the Reds’ best in a battling season, his powerful ball-running, booming boot, safe hands and crunching defence ensuring he demanded consideration again.