Deans revels in rugby seven heaven
Having gone from a famine to a feast of openside flankers, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is giving thought to including two of them in his matchday 22 in the upcoming Rugby Championship.
Acting captain David Pocock was joined in the 30-man Wallabies squad for the competition named on Tuesday by two other openside specialists, Michael Hooper, who played his first three Tests off the bench back in June, and Australian under 20 captain Liam Gill, who is yet to win a Test cap.
It’s a far cry from the World Cup last year when Pocock was the only openside in the squad and No.8 Ben McCalman struggled to fill the position when Pocock was injured.
Gill, fellow Queensland back-rower Jake Schatz and Waratahs lock Kane Douglas were the three uncapped players in Australia’s Rugby Championship squad.
Two veterans, winger Drew Mitchell and back-rower Radike Samo, were recalled to the squad, which included 12 players from Queensland and 10 from NSW.
Deans revealed he was even looking at blindside flanker and No.8 Schatz as another player who could fill the No.7 jersey down the track.
“There’s an injection of players in areas where we historically haven’t had a lot of depth, openside being an obvious one,” Deans said.
“Jake has really established himself at Super Rugby level and he’s a comer.
“Liam essentially has been around a long time for a young man and has been waiting for his body to catch up and as such he can cope with the rigours of Test rugby.
“We believe he’s at that point now.
“It’s great for us to have not only that depth but that competition around Poey.”
Quizzed about the possibility of having another openside on the bench to backup Pocock, Deans said, “possibly, but it depends on the big picture in terms of the team.
“It gives us the potential to use a 5-2 (forward-backs split on the bench) approach and have specialists.”
Deans said Douglas earned a spot ahead of Rebels rookie and former rower Cadeyrn Neville on the basis of his greater set piece experience.
Douglas joins a second row contingent including 105-Test veteran Nathan Sharpe – who postponed his retirement to help the Wallabies following the long term injury to fellow lock and first-choice captain James Horwill.
Deans said injured backs James O’Connor and Pat McCabe would not be considered at the earliest until Australia’s third Rugby Championship game against South Africa in Perth on September 8.
Wallabies squad: Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Kurtley Beale, Quade Cooper, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Anthony Faingaa, Saia Faingaa, Will Genia, Liam Gill, Mike Harris, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper, Rob Horne, Digby Ioane, Sekope Kepu, Drew Mitchell, Stephen Moore, Nick Phipps, David Pocock (capt), Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Radike Samo, Jake Schatz, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Sitaleki Timani, Nic White.© AAP 2013
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