2022-04-26 08:07:00

Sport is as much about timing as anything else.

Well, for Fraser McReight, Friday night is another pivotal moment for the burgeoning openside forward.

The 23-year-old former Junior Wallabies captain will go toe-for-toe with All Blacks skipper Sam Cane, who was Richie McCaw’s heir apparent, just as calls become deafening about finding a way for McReight to be weaved into the national side.

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Stuck behind Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, McReight has been limited to just two Test bench appearances since making his debut against the All Blacks in 2020.

In that time, his Junior Wallabies teammates Harry Wilson and Angus Bell have become regulars.

But for McReight, Dave Rennie has not been able to squeeze the specialist flanker into his 23-man squad alongside Hooper like Michael Cheika did when another former captain, David Pocock, was playing.

Yet on Saturday the 23-year-old turned heads with the best performance by an Australian in Super Rugby this year against the Wellington Hurricanes.

Fraser McReight has been impressive this year. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Indeed, former Wallabies coach John Connolly described McReight as Australia’s best player of the season and “McCaw-esque” during a conversation as he prepares to exit hospital following his devastating fall from a ladder.

McReight was everywhere for the Reds last weekend, as he got on the ball and was a continual menace on the floor at the breakdown.

He then showed the link skills and pace of a halfback when it was the Reds’ time to attack.

Hitherto, Rennie has decided not to play McReight and Hooper together because it would compromise the balance of the forward pack.

That sentiment still stands, but it does not mean McReight should not be afforded time to grow too, particularly with a World Cup around the corner and the need to develop in the advent of an injury.

McReight, too, is considered a future Wallabies captain and Rugby Australia must ensure he is not tempted by the riches overseas like others before him.

One thing can help his chances: backing it up against Cane in Brisbane.

Fraser McReight trains with the Wallabies. Photo: Stuart Walmsley / Rugby AustraliaSource: Supplied

Cane spent years under Rennie at the Chiefs and the openside flanker was just what the Wallabies coach wants in a player: physicality, defensive prowess, workrate, on-ball strength and link play.

If McReight measures up against Cane, it will show he is ready to start for the Wallabies.

“He’s (Cane) the All Black captain, he’s a physical person, he’s a good on-baller, he’s a link player; just the traditional New Zealand No.7,” McReight said on Tuesday.

“Obviously he’s played and done a lot of things and has a lot of experience, and I haven’t had the chance to play against someone of his calibre for a while with Hoops being overseas, so it’s going to be a great test.

“It’s going to be a personal battle with him, but I’ve just got to do what’s right for the team.”

Meanwhile, the Waratahs have received a welcome boost with Test loosehead prop Angus Bell cleared to play against the Crusaders on Saturday despite being red carded in the second minute over the weekend.

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Source by [graycupnews.com]

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