Rugby: Water boy to Aussie wide boy

Dom Shipperley is set for an Australian call-up. Photo / Getty Images
Dom Shipperley is set for an Australian call-up. Photo / Getty Images

A water boy in last year's Super Rugby final, robust Queensland winger Dom Shipperley, can swoop on a Wallabies jersey if he has another match to celebrate against the Crusaders today.

With the rematch of last year's title decider set to hold test match intensity, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans will be in Christchurch to run his rule over the fast-improving Shipperley, as well as other Reds.

Deans has identified the robust 21-year-old, who's form has seen one-test flyer Rod Davies dropped to the Queensland bench, as a wing candidate for next month's internationals against Scotland and Wales.

With incumbents Drew Mitchell and Lachie Turner sidelined for the season, Shipperley, Reds fullback Luke Morahan, young NSW three-quarter Tom Kingston and Brumbies league convert Joseph Tomane are fighting for selection. Marking up against All Blacks winger Zac Guildford in front of a packed Rugby League Park gives him an audition like no other but test selection was never on Shipperley's own radar in 2012.

"The injuries [to Mitchell and Turner] have opened the door to young guys like myself," Shipperley said."I set out the year and just wanted to be a regular for the Reds and I've pretty much achieved that in the first half of the season. Anything else will be a bonus and I'll be very, very happy."

Things have moved quickly for Shipperley since he was released by the Australian under-20s 12 months ago due to a Reds wing injury crisis. He played the last seven matches of the home and away season, highlighted by a last-minute match-winning try against the Western Force, but ran the water and team messages when Davies and Digby Ioane returned for the play-offs.

He was a match winner again this year with a 70m last-gasp try in round one against the Waratahs and he's gone on to be one of two Reds, along with Will Genia, to have played every minute of every match.

"If you would have picked the team before the start of the season I wouldn't have been in it but it's just good that if you're in good form and play well you'll be rewarded," he said.

With skipper James Horwill, Genia, Scott Higginbotham and fellow winger Ioane the only certain Reds test selections, Deans will be closely inspecting the form of lock Rob Simmons, prop James Slipper, hooker James Hanson, first five-eighth Ben Lucas and centres Mike Harris and Anthony Faingaa in the grand final re-match.

Others who could be closer to a test spot include fullback Morahan (although he could also be a contender for wing against Shipperley) and flanker/No 8 Scott Higginbotham. The pacy loose forward has been among the Reds' best players this year. He has caught the eye before with his pace and aggression but has tended to be used on the bench, if at all, as Deans and his selection advisers have felt he did not do enough of the hard graft.

Higginbotham appears to have put that right this year but the comparison with Crusaders captain Kieran Read will be an obvious and possibly telling one.

The Crusaders pack has been in destructive form for their past three wins, and will again like their prospects of dominating the Queensland scrum, while Richie McCaw will add back-row thrust off the bench in the last half-hour.

The home side's backline has also been purring with youngster Tom Taylor impressing at five-eighth and Dan Carter striking up a lethal combination with Robbie Fruean in the centres.


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