Max Jorgensen’s Rugby World Cup push as Waratahs prepare to rest key players ahead of Crusaders clash


As Max Jorgensen declared his World Cup ambitions, the rising star of Australian rugby could be forced to bide his time to continue his Wallabies push, with the Waratahs plotting how they peak in time for the Super Rugby finals after securing their place.

While Darren Coleman said he won’t make wholesale changes to his side for this weekend’s trip to Christchurch to take on the Crusaders, the second-year coach admitted his side was “a bit cooked” and said they would make some changes to ensure they’re fresh heading into next month’s finals charge.

“We’ve been up and training hard and playing hard for a while, so I reckon there’s a few boys definitely we’ve got to freshen up heading into the finals,” he said.

Waratahs Head Coach Darren Coleman admits he will look to freshen up his squad on the eve of the finals. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

One of those boys could well be Jorgensen.

Although the fullback is gunning to take on the Crusaders, telling reporters on Saturday night following his dazzling performance that he grew up “idolizing” the kings of Super Rugby, the Waratahs are equally aware of not burning him out.

While Jorgensen missed a couple of games earlier in the season because of injury, the teenager has played the past seven straight matches for the Waratahs.

Mark Nawaqanitawase celebrates with Max Jorgensen after at Allianz Stadium on May 13, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

It’s a big workload for someone who hadn’t even played a game against men until February, particularly one who weighs less than 90 kilograms.

With little to gain given the Waratahs will likely remain in sixth position regardless of the result in Christchurch given they are six points behind fifth and eight points clear of seventh and a match against the winless-Moana Pasifika to come, it’s easy to understand why Coleman will consider resting some players over the next two weeks.

“There’ll be a little bit of rotation,” said Coleman, whose Waratahs were bundled out in the quarter-finals against the Chiefs last year.

“Now, we’re in the eight …I keep saying, you’ve got to get there fit, healthy and in form and confident (heading into the finals).

“We definitely won’t do it en masse to lose momentum, but there might be one or two guys that you don’t need to risk if they’ve got a niggle, or guys that have started lots of games, might sort of sneak out.”

While the Brumbies paid the price of making 12 changes for their trip to Perth, Coleman said there was “no hard and fast rules” regarding workload management from Jones.

“Eddie’s been really good on that,” he said.

“We just talked about it. We’ll catch up on Monday and chat what we need to do. He’s not going to try and kill our momentum going into playoffs. There’s no hard and fast rules at the moment.”

Waratahs halves Jake Gordon and Ben Donaldson have played every match in 2023 while back-rower Michael Hooper has missed just one match.

Helping the Waratahs is the fact Ned Hanigan made a strong return via the bench after missing the past three weeks because of concussion.

Lachie Swinton will be eligible to play against Moana Pasifika in their final match, too.

“We won’t rest guys that don’t need it,” Coleman insisted.

“It was probably over the balance of the two games, we’ll just make sure we manage them well to go forward. I definitely see people’s point on the integrity of the competition, but there’s not much I can do about that.”

Jorgensen was one of the Waratahs’ best during their hard-fought, bonus-point 32-18 victory over the Drua on Saturday.

The teenager set up four tries and looked comfortable against the hard-hitting Fijian pack.

Having been a part of Eddie Jones’ April training squad, his performance rocketed his name back into the Wallabies World Cup mix.

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones talks with Max Jorgensen during an Australia Wallabies training camp at Sanctuary Cove on April 17, 2023 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones talks with Max Jorgensen during a Wallabies training camp at Sanctuary Cove on April 17, 2023 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Asked whether this year’s World Cup remained his target, Jorgensen made his clear his preference would be to be in France rather than South Africa for this year’s under-20s world championship.

“Yeah, definitely, definitely. I want to be there,” he said.

“Obviously, that’s all up to Eddie though. Hopefully I can keep playing well and cement my spot in that squad.

“I’ve had a little chat to Graysie [Junior Wallabies coach Nathan Grey], but it’s mostly up to Eddie. Whether he wants to be playing 20s or wants me going on tour with the Wallabies.

“Either way I’m happy. If I don’t get selected in that Wallabies, obviously I’ll be pretty down about it, but I’ve got 20s there, so 20s would be good fun.”

Coleman, meanwhile, said he was thrilled by his young fullback’s rapid rise.

“Sometimes you don’t give due credit when you’re watching it live, you know what I mean? But he did some great things in attack,” said Coleman, who upgraded the teenager’s contract to enable him to play earlier this year.

“He definitely did some good things. He’s picking his times on when to run back. And he’s getting offloads away, if not tackle breaks. He’s warming into it.”

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