The inclusion of three newcomers, and seven uncapped players overall, highlights the Qantas Wallabies squad of 40 that has been released today for this year’s Castrol Edge Rugby Test against Samoa, and for the 2011 Castrol Edge Tri Nations series.
The Queensland Reds pair of flanker Beau Robinson and hooker James Hanson have been invited to join the playing cast, as has the impressive NSW Waratahs second rower Sitaleki Timani.
The three first-time Wallabies are joined in the squad by Queensland Reds wingers Rod Davies and Luke Morahan, Melbourne Rebels halfback Nick Phipps and the NSW Waratahs loose forward Dave Dennis.
The enlarged squad has been named with one eye to the upcoming Rugby World Cup later in the year, where 30 players will represent Australia at the tournament. For this reason, a number of players have been included in this initial naming who are not immediately available due to injuries sustained during Super Rugby.
Winger Drew Mitchell and inside centre Berrick Barnes, have been omitted for now due to the uncertain timelines surrounding their rehabilitation from injury. Even without the pair, as many as six of the players chosen will not be available for the opening Test of the year against Samoa due to injury, although Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans expects all of the selected players to have returned to full training if not playing duties, at some level, prior to the completion of the Tri Nations at the end of August.
“In terms of the players who are currently on the sidelines, we won’t be rushing any of them,” Deans says, “but we need to get them all started, in terms of being exposed to all of the detail, as part of our preparation. That’s one of the reasons why we have opted for an enlarged squad at this point.
“The expansion of Super Rugby and this year’s Rugby World Cup has condensed the schedule significantly which has placed an even greater importance on making sure that we have covered all selection-related eventualities, as there isn’t a lot of time between matches. To that end, we want the guys to be playing so, as we have done in previous years, we will be looking to have as many of the players playing as is possible by releasing them to their clubs where we can.”
The selection of Beau Robinson, Hanson, Morahan and Davies recognises their contributions to the Reds’ charge to the top rung of Super Rugby, which was completed by last night’s gritty 18-13 win over the Crusaders in the final.
Phipps and Dennis also performed strongly for their Super Rugby provinces, while Deans says the form shown by the damaging Timani, was simply too good to ignore. The Tongan-born lock began the year as part of the back-up pool of players at the Waratahs, but ended it as one of his team’s form players. While the 24-year-old was due to take up a playing option in Japan at the conclusion of Super Rugby, this has now been put on hold, with international selection taking precedence under International Rugby Board regulations.
Sydney fans have the opportunity to meet the Wallabies when the team holds a Fan day around its season-opener against Samoa at ANZ Stadium next Sunday.
The match is the fifth Test to be played between Australia and Samoa with the day also providing the opportunity for a reunion of the first Wallabies side to play the Pacific Islanders, during the 1991 Rugby World Cup tournament, which Australia went on to win.
The Castrol Edge Tri Nations Series opens six days after the Samoa Test, with Sydney again the venue as South Africa appears in the harbour city for the first time since 2007.
The opening two weekends of August see the Wallabies in action in Auckland and Durban, before the Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cup finale against the All Blacks pits the trans-Tasman rivals against each other in Brisbane for the first time since 2008.
Although the Tri Nations has this year been abridged to a home-and-away round, Deans expects the tournament to be no less intense, even with September’s Rugby World Cup hovering in the background.
Australia hasn’t won the Tri Nations since 2001, and last held the Bledisloe Cup in 2002, although it recaptured the Mandela Challenge Plate off South Africa last year.
The Wallabies have won their most recent matches with both South Africa and New Zealand, with both wins being claimed outside of Australia after a drama-filled 41-39 win over the Springboks at Bloemfontein during last year’s tournament, and the equally dramatic 26-24 win over the All Blacks at Hong Kong during the Bledisloe Cup Test which opened the last Spring Tour.
Ben Alexander – Prop – Brumbies
Adam Ashley-Cooper – Fullback-Wing-Outside Centre – Brumbies
Kurtley Beale – Fullback – NSW Waratahs
Luke Burgess – Halfback – NSW Waratahs
Quade Cooper – Flyhalf – Queensland Reds
Ben Daley – Prop – Queensland Reds
Rod Davies – Winger – Queensland Reds
Dave Dennis – Loose forward – NSW Waratahs
Rocky Elsom © – Flanker – Brumbies
Anthony Faingaa – Inside Centre – Queensland Reds
Saia Faingaa – Hooker – Queensland Reds
Will Genia – Halfback – Queensland Reds
Mark Gerrard – Fullback – Melbourne Rebels
Matt Giteau – Inside Centre – Brumbies
James Hanson – Hooker – Queensland Reds
Scott Higginbotham – Loose forward – Queensland Reds
Matt Hodgson – Loose forward – Western Force
James Horwill – Lock – Queensland Reds
Digby Ioane – Wing – Queensland Reds
Sekope Kepu – Prop – NSW Waratahs
Salesi Ma’afu – Prop – Brumbies
Pat McCabe – Centre/Wing/Fullback – Brumbies
Ben McCalman – Lock/Loose Forward – Western Force
Stephen Moore – Hooker – Brumbies
Luke Morahan – Wing – Queensland Reds
Dean Mumm – Lock/Loose-forward – NSW Waratahs
James O’Connor – Fullback – Western Force
Wycliff Palu – No 8 – NSW Waratahs
Nick Phipps – Halfback – Melbourne Rebels
David Pocock – Flanker – Western Force
Tatafu Polota Nau – Hooker – NSW Waratahs
Beau Robinson – Flanker – Queensland Reds
Benn Robinson – Prop – NSW Waratahs
Radike Samo – Loose forward – Queensland Reds
Nathan Sharpe – Lock – Western Force
Rob Simmons – Lock – Queensland Reds
James Slipper – Prop – Queensland Reds
Sitaleki Timani – Lock – NSW Waratahs
Lachie Turner – Wing – NSW Waratahs
Dan Vickerman – Lock – NSW Waratahs
Castrol Edge Rugby Test
Sunday July 17: Qantas Wallabies v Samoa, Sydney
Castrol Edge Tri-Nations
Saturday July 23: Qantas Wallabies v South Africa, Sydney
Saturday August 6: Qantas Wallabies v New Zealand, Auckland
Saturday August 13: Qantas Wallabies v South Africa, Durban
Saturday August 27: Qantas Wallabies v New Zealand, Brisbane