The Junior Wallaby with shades of ‘BOD’ who was snapped up after four tries in five games


Former Ireland and British and Irish Lions center Brian O'Driscoll is one of the greatest rugby union players of all time. The man known universally as 'BOD' played 141 Test matches, a record at the time, including more than 80 as captain of the Irish.

For many, including this writer, O'Driscoll was the man. Whether it was with Leinster, Ireland or in the famous red stripe of the touring Lions, O'Driscoll often demonstrated amazing skills to achieve the unbelievable while others watched in awe.

Australian Henry O'Donnell was the same. The self-identified “ultimate football tragic” watched match after match, but particularly enjoyed watching the saving work of rugby master O'Driscoll from the other side of the world.

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No wonder O'Donnell, as a young man rising through the Australian rugby ranks, looked to the World Rugby Hall of Fame as inspiration to hopefully one day become talented enough to play professional rugby himself.

“Like me, he doesn't have a completely crazy physical trait. He's not 115 kilograms or 195 centimeters tall,” O'Donnell said. Rugby Pass In February before the Super Rugby Pacific season.

“He's just a good football mind, smart, fast, with a good work ethic.

“I'm not a big body guy but I like to throw myself into contact, but I think just shaping myself as an all-around player who can attack from all different angles and (is) a really high IQ defensive player.

“Maybe it's just watching other people and trying to shape my game with people who are good at those traits.”

O'Donnell is a Sydney boy who dreamed of one day wearing a Sky Blue jersey for the NSW Waratahs. The backline service impressed in the First XV for Riverview during his high school days and was also part of the Waratahs' junior runs.

Everything appears to be going in the right direction for the youngster, but O'Donnell's opportunity at Super Rugby Pacific level will not come with the New South Welshman. The Aussie has moved from one coast to another.

With Wallabies' Izaia Perese and Lalakai Foketi holding down the fort in the Waratahs' midfield, the Sydney players considered several factors before putting pen to paper with the Western Force. For the young man, “it was actually very difficult.”

“It was very difficult, but moving here, I was welcomed by the players really well. I knew a few of the boys here who I played with in the 20s or from Sydney as well.”

“But the best thing about Perth is that all the boys are actually from the east coast, and we all live together here. We all pretty much live in the same suburb.”

“It's a bit like a little family here because we don't have any friends outside of football, we just really have each other.

“It was a big dream for me to play for Al-Taher. When I grew up, it was clear that this was the team I supported and I really wanted to play with,” he added.

“I was looking at the opportunity for myself, and for the coaching staff, and also a good opportunity to live outside the home, get a lot of life experience. That was probably the big decision in terms of opportunities.

“I feel ready to step into the Super Bowl environment. I thought the Force was probably the club that was going in the right direction and would have the greatest chance for me to reach my goals.

“As every young child should do, they have to bide their time and I'm perfectly happy to do that.

“But I thought about the opportunities I had at Forres to get playing time, develop my career, develop my skills… I thought it was the right move for me at the time.”

O'Donnell was revealed as one of the Western Force's latest signings on the morning of 5 September. It was big news for the club.

The hard-working center had just come off an impressive under-20 campaign with the country's best young players, taking on their peers from all over the world.

Coach Nathan Gray selected O'Donnell in the Australia Under-20 squad for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in South Africa. While the Junior Wallabies did not win this tournament, there are plenty of positives for the future of Australian rugby.

NOW – NSW Waratahs halfback and SVNS series debutant Teddy Wilson captained the side, the Reds' playmaking duo of Tom Lynagh and Harry McLaughlin-Phillips also got a run, with 2024 skipper Toby McPherson also making an impact.

Then there are the likes of former SVNS star Darby Lancaster, Melbourne Rebels' Mason Gordon, Reds prop Massimo De Lutis, midfielder Ronan Leahy and many more. This was a team full of talent and potential.

When the team was initially unveiled on 7 June, O'Donnell was listed as part of the 'Waratahs' playing group. The utility would go on to shine for South Africa by scoring four tries in five Australian gold medal matches, which included a brace against Wales.

It was an experience that O'Donnell considered “an essential part (of preparing) for ultra-preparedness.” The Western Force signing told this website at the end of pre-season that he had learned “a lot of things” from that experience with the U20 national team.

“I thought the 1920s campaign was absolutely unreal. Honestly, that was probably the best month I've ever had playing football… I just enjoyed being around the boys.

“I played a lot of football with Teddy (Wilson), and I played football since I was 12 with Jack Bowen as well. Ned Slack Smith, I played with all those boys.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time. I loved the coaching staff in (Nathan) Gracie and Shannon Fraser, I thought we played a really good brand of football and I think we were all really proud of it and really enjoyed playing.”

“I thought we improved as the tournament went on. I don't think finishing fifth in the tournament did us any justice.

“Football in the tournament is tough – losing to Ireland in that one game. It was tough to take on the chin because I thought we were much better than fifth but I learned a lot from that time and also enjoyed a lot.

“I think it was a great experience for all the boys.”

After making the more than four-hour trip west, O'Donnell began training with the force in November. This was a group that also brought the likes of Ben Donaldson and Nick White into the mix ahead of the 2024 season.

After three months of talking to Rugby PassO'Donnell found a home in the power play side. The Wallaby junior has already played five away games since making his debut against the Blues and Auckland, and is set to return to action on Saturday.

Having dreamed of pulling on a Sky Blue jersey one day, O'Donnell will face the Waratahs for the first time in his career at HBF Park in Perth. O'Donnell will wear the No. 23 sweater as the Powerhouse looks to take a big step toward a previously improbable Finals berth.





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