The teenager has demonstrated her attacking abilities at this World Cup
Why England should be wary of Wallaroos wing Bienne Terita
It’s been something of a roller-coaster year for Bienne Terita, but she has certainly been hitting the peaks rather than the troughs during this Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
The 19-year-old made her debut for Australia’s sevens team earlier this year but then suffered the disappointment of not being selected for the Commonwealth Games squad.
A call-up to the 15-a-side team helped soften that blow and she marked her Test debut by scoring two tries against New Zealand – not a bad way to mark your arrival on the international stage!
She returned to the abbreviated code for the Sevens World Cup, although she didn’t play a minute as Australia lifted the trophy in Cape Town, and was then selected in the Wallaroos squad for the 15s showpiece, where she has played all bar three minutes of their campaign to date.
Two World Cups in two different formats in the space of a few weeks – keeping track of Terita’s career is as hard as defenders find it to keep track of the teenager on the pitch.
So how has the woman herself found switching between sevens and 15s? “A lot of girls said I’d find it easy but I didn’t, I found it quite tough because it’s so different,” she says. “There’s a different kind of intensity between sevens and 15s.
“There are so many bodies on the field (in 15s) and it’s so physical and there’s not much space, so you have to create it. There are so many bodies in front of you whereas in sevens it’s eyes up because there is so much space on the field, but 15s is a skilful game too.”
Terita’s form to date would suggest she has adapted pretty well, particularly given she had only played a handful of 15s games for her club Randwick before winning her first cap. She has scored five tries in her first four Tests and England will be wary of the threat she poses in their quarter-final this weekend.
She possesses pace and power, proving she can bust through tackles as well as gas people on the outside during this tournament. She has also been used off her wing, hitting lines in midfield to try to catch defences off guard.
In the opening game of the World Cup, she scored another two tries against the Black Ferns, she made the most clean breaks of any Wallaroo and scored another try in the narrow win over Scotland, and she was second for metres made and defenders beaten in another tight victory over Wales, which booked their place in the last eight.
No doubt the Red Roses coaches have been highlighting the wing’s attacking abilities ahead of their knockout tie. Yet when asked about her strengths, Terita prefers to deflect attention to the efforts of her team-mates.
“They make my job pretty easy for me,” she says. “They set the platform very well for me to do my job. They give me the ball in space and I’m a little bit of a faster player, so I can take that space and use it.”
While she is playing her own abilities down, one of those team-mates shouts across, “She’s a natural”! Terita admits she needs to work on her game understanding while kicking is another area of improvement, but there is no doubt she has the raw ingredients to excel.
She also has the family pedigree. Both her older sisters have represented Australia in rugby, Tayma playing sevens in the Youth Olympics and Kenina running out for the Wallaroos.
She faces arguably the biggest challenge of her career to date this Sunday but she is excited to test herself against England, the tournament favourites. “I love playing against the best teams in the world, it really does bring the best of your footy out. It’s another opportunity to better yourself.
“We know they’re quite dynamic and quite physical, they have a really good back-line structure. It’s just shutting down their backs as best we can and keeping our discipline, especially in midfield.
“We have threats all across the park in our team and we’ll make it very difficult for them.”
While the immediate goal is ending the Red Roses’ 28-match winning run to progress to the semi-finals, in the longer term Terita has her sights set on the 2024 Olympics. Given her rapid progress in both codes, you wouldn’t be surprised to see her lining up at more global events in the years to come.
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