The new three-man Wallabies selection panel has named their first squad of the year for the side’s opening Rugby Championship fixture against South Africa on July 20.
Brumbies flyhalf Christian Lealiifano headlines a number of returning faces in the 34-man squad, alongside Adam Ashley-Cooper and James Slipper, while there are three potential debutants, all in the forwards: Isi Naisarani, Liam Wright and Rob Valetini.
As expected, the returning James O’Connor isn’t in the squad just days after he linked up with the side for his first Wallabies training session since 2013, but there’s no room for NSW halfback Nick Phipps.
Phipps has been a regular back-up for Will Genia, but Joe Powell and Nic White have been named as the options at no.9 behind Genia for the trip to face the Springboks. It’s White’s first Wallabies selection since the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup, having since had a stint playing in Europe with the Exeter Chiefs.
Ned Hanigan and Quade Cooper are the other notable absentees alongside Phipps, while none of Adam Coleman, David Pocock and Pete Samu are in the squad as they continue their recovery from shoulder, calf and hamstring injuries respectively.
Cooper’s omission would indicate the Rebels flyhalf is little chance of making the Rugby World Cup squad later in the year, particularly given Lealiifano and Matt Toomua’s selections.
Tom Banks and Jack Maddocks both have a chance to add to their handful of Test Caps in South Africa, but with Marika Koroibete, Dane Haylett-Petty, Kurtley Beale and Reece Hodge also named, Michael Cheika and his selection panel can go a number of different ways with their backline make-up.
The tight five up front would seem to be a little more straightforward – on form, at least – with Brumbies quartet Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Scott Sio and Folau Fainga’a all in the squad following excellent Super Rugby seasons.
Two other hookers have been named alongside Fainaga’a: youngsters Tolu Latu, whose 2019 has been marred by disciplinary issues both on and off the field, and Jordan Uelese, who missed the bulk of the Rebels season due to a knee injury sustained last year.
The squad will fly to South Africa on Sunday, a full two weeks before their Rugby Championship opener against the Springboks in Johannesburg. The Wallabies then face Argentina in Brisbane a week later and the All Blacks in Perth on August 10 to round out the shortened tournament.
Allan Alaalatoa (32 Tests, Brumbies, 25)
Rory Arnold (19 Tests, Brumbies, 29)
Jack Dempsey (10 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 25)
Folau Fainga’a (7 Tests, Brumbies, 24)
Michael Hooper (c) (91 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 27)
Luke Jones (3 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 28)
Sekope Kepu (103 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 33)
Tolu Latu (12 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 26)
Isi Naisarani (uncapped, Melbourne Rebels, 24)
Tom Robertson (24 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 24)
Izack Rodda (17 Tests, Queensland Reds, 22)
Rob Simmons (94 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 30)
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (11, Queensland Reds, 22)
Scott Sio (55 Tests, Brumbies, 27)
James Slipper (86 Tests, Brumbies, 30)
Taniela Tupou (11 Tests, Queensland Reds, 23)
Jordan Uelese (2 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 22)
Rob Valetini (uncapped, Brumbies, 20)
Liam Wright (uncapped, Queensland Reds, 21)
Adam Ashley-Cooper (117 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 35)
Tom Banks (3 Tests, Brumbies, 25)
Kurtley Beale (83 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 30)
Bernard Foley (68 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)
Will Genia (100 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 31)
Dane Haylett-Petty (31 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 30)
Reece Hodge (33 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 24)
Samu Kerevi (25 Tests, Queensland Reds, 25)
Marika Koroibete (20 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)
Tevita Kuridrani (58 Tests, Brumbies, 28)
Christian Lealiifano (19 Tests, Brumbies, 31)
Jack Maddocks (7 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 22)
Joe Powell (4 Tests, Brumbies, 25)
Matt Toomua (42 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 29)
Nic White (22 Tests, Exeter Chiefs, 29)