"Superstar of the future" Moleka focused on French challenge

Fri, Oct 27, 2023, 7:15 AM
Lachlan Grey
by Lachlan Grey

She’s been branded a “superstar of the future” but Faitala Moleka isn’t looking further than a 5pm (AEDT) kickoff against France on Saturday.

The teenage talent has enjoyed a whirlwind 2023, including a Wallaroos debut against Fiji and winning gold with the Youth Commonwealth Games sevens side.

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Now, she’s set for a fourth Test start and her biggest challenge yet – shutting down a red-hot French outfit under the roof in Dunedin.

“It’s pretty up there,” Moleka said ahead of Saturday’s WXV1 clash.

“I think (when) playing for Australia, they’re all very special to me. It’s pretty rare to represent your country at a young age, so yeah, super blessed and grateful.

“We had a great leadup to the England game, not the result we wanted but the vibes, the energy and the connection we have in our team is really great.

“Personally, I’m still adjusting (to Test rugby) but with the help of those around the team, people like Arabella McKenzie, Mac Leonard, Lori Cramer, all the experienced girls, it’s really helped me to bring the focus on my own job and makes adjusting to the team a lot easier.”

Moleka has worked closely with Cramer on her fullback craft throughout the tournament and will need every ounce of Cramer’s experience to defuse France’s aerial game.

Les Bleus made over 200 tackles and kicked twice as much as their New Zealand counterparts last week with Scott Fava – Moleka’s Brumbies coach and Wallaroos assistant – keenly aware of the challenge presented by France’s high-pressure game.

“Faitala’s been a talent since Day 1,” Fava said.

“When she does get the opportunity with ball in hand, she’s got the best footwork in the team, so she’s got the basis of a superstar of the future, a World XV player."

“There’s lots she needs to work on, defensively working in terms of how she plugs into the line, in terms of transition, so this (France game) is going to be a very big Test for her, there’s no doubt about it.

“France are big in terms of those wings so her plugging in on the edges, but also understanding she’ll need to be back there catching balls on the full and making sure she counterattacks.”

Uncapped Queenslander Melanie Wilks is another set to defuse France’s aerial assault after being named on the bench during Thursday's team announcement.

Her inclusion caps a long journey through Caboolture Snakers, Queensland 7s and a six-year stint at Bond University, with whom she has won consecutive Queensland Premier Women’s titles.

“It’s super exciting for Wilksy. She’s been part of our group for a good while now and (she’s) always one of the hardest workers out there,” Leonard said.

“It’s a tough job when you’re not on the field in that 23 week in week out but she’s always positive, always bringing good energy and shows up for the next training ready to go again, so really excited for her and excited to unleash what she can bring.”

The Wallaroos’ WXV1 clash with France kicks off 5pm AEDT on Saturday 28 October via Stan Sport.

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