The five candidates for the Wallabies No.10 jersey – and the old heads who may sneak in to join them


Everything about the Wallabies in 2024 is new: new coach, new assistants, new expectations, but the same 23 matchday jerseys to fill.

Form throughout the Super Rugby Pacific season has allowed certain positions to have their Wallabies emerge, but one position which remains wide open is the No.10 jersey.

The five young flyhalves of the Super franchises have all been namedropped by new coach Joe Schmidt, who says selections are a “clean slate”.

“There are a number of tens; Tom Lynagh did really well last week I thought, Ben Donaldson’s been going well, and Noah Lolesio is the most consistent of the kickers, certainly at goal,” said Schmidt, speaking at the launch of tickets for Wallabies home games in Sydney last week.

The mean age of this cohort is 23.2yo, meaning they are merely pups compared to the playmakers of the World Cup quarter finals in Paris, where the average age was 30.8.

This paints a picture of where these young guns are, and where they can be, if they are exposed to the right environments ahead of the home World Cup in 2027.

Schmidt’s coaching team will be a great environment for those selected over the next 18 months to settle into a test-level environment.

First, we will go through the five young flyhalves of the Super teams followed by a short note on the veterans who could add value to the side.

Noah Lolesio, 24, ACT Brumbies

The young Brumby pivot is the most experienced player of the bunch.

Sixty games for the Brums, six for French Top 14 club Toulon and 17 Tests for the Wallabies.

Lolesio is an instinctive player who has learned to organise and has a solid kicking game.

He has a running game, having played no.12 at U20s level, but it has not been as evident at test level.

Noah Lolesio is making a strong play for a Wallabies call-up in 2024. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Lolesio is most confident once he has taken a contact with ball in hand, afterwards he’s happy to carry to the line, linking with his outside backs through either a deft kick or pass.

His defence stats sit middle of the pack, but it’s the goal kicking numbers that sets Lolesio apart from the pack.

Kicking at 88.9 per cent, he’s the most accurate goal kicker in the competition, and the second highest point scorer off-the-tee behind Damien McKenzie.

At test level, being confident you will bank the three points if the captain has pointed to the sticks, is vital.

The Wallabies have won famous victories all over the world through the boot of James O’Connor, Kurtley Beale, Quade Cooper, and Bernard Foley.

This skill alone has Lolesio as the front runner, but his experience for both club and country is not to balk at either, especially as he has had the time to make the mistakes evident now in the games of the other four less experienced playmakers.

Carter Gordon 23, Melbourne Rebels

Gordon exploded onto the scene in 2023 in a breakout year with the Melbourne Rebels, which saw him become Eddie Jones’ favoured no.10.

He’s the most physical of the five playmakers, with a handy highlight reel in both attack and defence.

His swagger is at odds with his eagerness to get into the tough stuff, and his ability to find space across the field is unparalleled amongst the others.

Despite being physically suited for test-match rugby, his kicking game and decision making is still developing.

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His accuracy off-the-tee is needing much more improvement still, sitting at 69.2 per cent.

Without a Ryan Lonergan or Nic White at halfback, who are both short of goal kicking practice this season, the Wallabies can’t afford to bank less than 70 per cent of penalties and conversions.

Had the misses come from the sideline, the numbers would be less damning, but misses from just outside the posts and kicks that have gone well wide consistently is not test-match standard.

His physical abilities as well as the ability to throw a 20m laser pass are unmatched, none of the others can make that pass, especially not as regularly and effortlessly as Gordon makes it look.

However, his selection will come down to whether Schmidt can mitigate the loss of a sure-footed kicker at no.10 and what potential he thinks he can unlock in Gordon.

Ben Donaldson 25, Western Force

Donaldson shone brightest over the last year at fullback in the Wallabies’ opening World Cup match against Georgia.

There he banked two tries, showing good pace and astute kicking to keep the Aussies in the right parts of the field, as well as helping the scoreboard tick-over.

Donaldson generally plays flat to the line as a no.10, challenging the line with ball-in-hand and asking questions of defences.

After moving from the Waratahs to the Western Force, Donaldson has failed to set the world on fire, which is a shame because his early season form suggested he was headed for a breakout year.

Carter Gordon with Ben Donaldson during the Wallabies’ first-up win over Georgia in Paris at the 2023 World Cup. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Nevertheless, playing behind an often-beaten pack has meant Donaldson’s impact on games has been limited.

Territory has been hard to come by and he has struggled to spark their attack consistently.

Kurtley Beale’s addition in the no.15 jersey has benefited Donaldson immensely, the veteran’s communication has gifted Donaldson more time to make decisions.

But the biggest question mark surrounding Donaldson is whether he is a better fullback or five-eighth?

His pace and natural instincts to attack the line has him better suited to fullback, and a work-on noted during both Dave Rennie and Jones was that he needed to find his voice.

Donaldson, like Gordon is also struggling off-the-tee, with a 69.2 per cent strike rate.

Tane Edmed 23, NSW Waratahs

The Waratah’s no-frills approach has seen him enjoy a regular starting role in the no.10 jersey over the last three seasons when not injured.

His ability to square up an attack has given the strike weapons outside him more space and time to break through opposition defences.

Edmed’s game is balanced, topped-off with a solid kicking rate off-the-tee of 82.9 per cent.

What Edmed lacks is a standout attribute: he is strong without being dominant, carries hard without finding gaps and kicks well but not the best.

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Edmed’s stocks in 2024 are stable, he is playing as well as can be expected in a team where front rowers are dropping like flies and the forward pack’s ascendency has been patchy.

Whether he is to gain his first Wallabies cap in 2024 or not, Edmed is developing nicely into a consistent Super Rugby player.

Tom Lynagh 21. Queensalnd Reds

Despite being the youngest and the smallest of the cohort he is by far the best defender.

Tackling at 83 per cent, he is outstripping the closest of the bunch by more than 12 per cent.

Having grown up in the UK, he’s got a well-rounded game, doing the basics well.

He is mature beyond his years as well as having an impressive length on his clearances.

Like Edmed, Lynagh stands out because of a lack of glaring errors rather than dazzling play, which at test-level, where errors are compounded, is a real asset.

However, being just 21, with 20 Super matches under his belt, the extremely talented young gun has a lot of time to hone his skills without the pressures of needing to be to be a Wallaby.

There is nothing wrong with allowing him to continue to improve and grow physically under Less Kiss, to build a consistent and healthy Super Rugby presence.

The old dogs

Finally, a quick note on the veterans: Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale, Quade Cooper and James O’Connor.

Schmidt says Australian based players will be prioritised, but with such a young cohort of playmakers, an experienced player could help guide the youngsters Schmidt selects.

Foley has the best form of the bunch, leading his team Kabuto Spears around the field over the last two years to great effect in Japan’s League One.

Quade Cooper has had a bad run of injuries and who’s team Kintetsu Liners have won one game out of 15 in the same competition.

James O’Connor is based in Australia, but with only three games remaining in the regular season, limiting his opportunities to impress Schmidt, due to a run of injuries.

Finally, Beale has made a seamless return to Super Rugby in the 15 jersey.

Both he and O’Connor have what Cooper and Foley don’t, versatility.

They both can play 10, 12,15, even wing at a pinch.

It means they could play alongside the young 10s rather than taking their spot in the XV.

As noted earlier, all four are clutch goal kickers.

Whatever combination of playmakers Schmidt chooses, they can rest assured the gameplan will be much clearer than it was under Jones.

Schmidt will have one eye on winning matches in 2024 and the other on building for the Lions series in 2025 as well as setting-up for the World Cup in 2027.

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