The Debutants: Cockbain chats our new crop of rookies

· Super Rugby - AU
by Waratahs Media

The NSW Waratahs will take five uncapped players to Suncorp Stadium to face the Reds this Friday night, and we caught up with Assistant Coach, Matt Cockbain to get his thoughts on generation next.


Will Harris and Joey Walton will both debut from the starting XV, while Tom Horton, Tiaan Tauakipulu and Ben Donaldson could earn their professional debut from the bench.


This latest crop of youngsters joins the likes of Will Harrison, Mark Nawaqnaitawase, Angus Bell, James Ramm, Michael McDonald and Carlo Tizzano to make their professional debut in 2020.


Let’s hear from Matt on our debutants:


Will Harris

“He’ll be the new no.8 in our pack, obviously he would have been in the Australian U20s squad this year had it not been for COVID.


“He’s a quick, strong young man and good in the lineout as well.


“We’re expecting a lot from Will and it’s great that he’s been able to have this opportunity in the new competition. His game is built around his speed [for his size] and he runs in those wider channels really well and has a bit of an offload.


“The challenge for him will be to aim up physically which I’m sure he will.”


Joey Walton

“An excellent young kid, he’s quite a quick and nippy sort of player with a great ability to change his angle late and run a good line.


“I’ve been quite impressed with his communication, he works well with both the forwards and backs around him in general play, which will be a real positive for us in terms of how we want to play our game.”


Tiaan Tauakipulu

“Queensland pride themselves on their scrum and their tight play so it’s a big test for Tiaan on debut.


“He’s certainly got all the attributes around the park in terms of his ball carry, defence and general play work. It’s another level he’s stepping up to in the set piece, but going off what we’ve seen in training he’s certainly ready to make that step.


“A bit like Angus Bell who is out there starting, if Tiaan gets his opportunity and joins him [on the field] we could have two of the youngest props in the history of Super Rugby out there.


“Tiaan is extremely capable for a player of his age, he knows what he needs to do and it’ll just be a case of him keeping to the processes we’ve been working on.”


Tom Horton

“He’s a mobile hooker, very strong and he brings a bit to the wider channels as well.

“He’s got a great person to learn off in Robbie Abel, who has been around for a long time and certainly knows a few tricks. It’s been a good little combination having them work together as Tom prepares to make his professional debut.


“It’s just great to see him get an opportunity after having a few injury setbacks at the start of this year.


“He brings some great energy and an aggressive edge which is important when you’re coming off the bench, but it’s important to live on the edge rather go over it so for Tommy it’s about balance.”


Ben Donaldson

“Ben has grown into really strong communicator in team sessions and is embracing that role more and more.


“Harro has done the same from a starting position but Benny now gets the chance to contribute from the bench.


“He’s got the ability to play at this level and could very well be starting at some point given his versatility – he can play at 10, fullback and is even quick enough to jump on the wing.”