Angus Bell will be the Wallabies captain in years to come according to Test legend Tim Horan.
That tip has come in the wake of a standout performance by the loosehead prop at this year’s Rugby World Cup.
The second-generation Australian international, son of Mark Bell (No.729), had praise heaped on him by former players including Horan, James Horwill, and Stephen Hoiles.
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Although there have been criticisms of Eddie Jones and his youth policy with the average age of the squad just 26 years old, 22-year-old Bell has been something of a revelation.
“He’s part of that next generation,” said Horan of Bell, who made his debut in 2020.
“He is a future Wallabies captain, there is no doubt about that. We’ve seen that in the last couple of years.”
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That sentiment is echoed by Hoiles, who lauded the Wallabies front-row that has arguably been one of the team’s strong suits amid all the doom and gloom.
“You don’t use this word lightly, but he is a world-class loose-head prop,” said Hoiles.
“We probably had Taniela as another world-class player, plus Will Skelton. To lose Taniela and Will Skelton, it put a lot of pressure on Angus Bell because he’s our best forward carrier.
“Probably besides Valetini, they get the most amount of carries. They had to put a lot of pressure on their shoulders but he aimed up. He put his hand up at this World Cup.
“It also highlighted the disappointment that the Waratahs had this season. They had him for one round. Same with the Reds, they lost Taniela.
“It’s just fascinating, the modern-day rugby player, that props have become so valuable. We always knew what they needed to do at scrum and line-out time, but they just have so much expectation to get good metres in their carries and he’s been exceptional.
“He is the future of Australian rugby and if he can stay fit and healthy, he’ll have a bright future.”
Bell’s rise has been dogged by a toe injury that has largely kept him out of the Wallabies fold for the past two years.
He and teammate Taniela Tupou spent much of this year in rehabilitation together. They’ve grown close as a result, but haven’t played much together in 2023 owing to Tupou suffering another hamstring injury ahead of the loss to Fiji.
For Horwill, seeing Bell thrive on the world stage after the toe trouble has been encouraging.
“He’s had a really frustrating time of injury. He re-injured the same injury three times,” said Horwill.
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“When that mentally plagues you as a player – and Hoilesy, we’ve both been through some lingering injuries that stick with you – it’s just so hard.
“You get the physical part but then you get the mental part of just getting going again and playing rugby.
“You could see that when he first came back on the scene from the injury, he just looked so relieved to be back out there. Now he’s certainly getting his runs under him.”
Australia’s participation in this year’s Rugby World Cup hinges on the outcome of Fiji vs Portugal.
Portugal needs to win and ensure Fiji don’t win with a losing point to have any possibility of the Wallabies progressing.