Change of fortunefor Dorrigo?s AJ

By BRAD GREENSHIELDS

AFTER two years of experiencing terrible luck with injuries, A.J Gilbert is finally enjoying a change in fortune.

One of the area's finest young rugby talents, Gilbert has put behind him the disappointment of hardly playing in the last two years due to injury and is now preparing to play for the Australian under 19 team playing in Dubai for this year's under 19 World Cup.

"New Zealand are in the pool that we're playing in," he said barely able to contain his excitement.

"Playing against the Kiwis is going to be unbelievable, I'm really looking forward to it."

Gilbert has only just made the move to Sydney earlier this week as he prepares to play with Waringah in 2006 after recovering from a knee injury last year that required a full reconstruction.

In 2004, he missed out on an almost certain place in the Australian schoolboys team due to a broken jaw.

"I'm absolutely stoked with being picked, I couldn't be happier, especially with the run of injuries that I've had," he said.

"To be honest, just being fit again and able to be running around, I'm pretty happy with that so being picked is huge."

Making the flanker's selection even more remarkable is the fact that a selection trial for the Australian team was Gilbert's first game back from the long rehabilitation program.

Most of the surprise that Gilbert has about his selection is the quality of the teammates that he will playing alongside when he pulls on the green and gold.

"It's just going to be super playing with these guys as eight or nine of them already have contracts," the 18 year-old said.

"Josh Holmes is with the Waratahs, Saia and Anthony Faingaa are with the Brumbies, David Pocock who's playing in my position and Brett Stapleton are with the Western Force and the majority of the team were with the Australian schoolboys.

"Even though it's the under 19s, there's so many experienced players in the team."

The squad will assemble in Coffs Harbour from March 24 for a week of training at Camp Wallaby before heading off for an overseas venture to the United Arab Emirates.

"I don't know much about it to be honest," Gilbert admitted when asked his knowledge of Dubai.

"At first I thought it was a third world country but I know now that it's anything but.

"I've been to New Zealand and Fiji before to play but I haven't travelled in a few years, Dubai should be something completely different, I can't wait."



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