The number of Waratahs on Dave Rennie’s ‘player of national interest’ list has surged on the back of their Super Rugby AU form.
Eleven of Rob Penney’s charges are on the latest PONI list, as published in the Sydney Morning Herald, up from three at the start of the year, with only the Brumbies (14) better represented. There are ten Rebels and nine Reds, and unsurprisingly no members of the winless Western Force.
In addition to Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons and Jake Gordon, all of whom were on the April version, young Tahs Will Harrison, James Ramm, Jack Maddocks, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Angus Bell, Tom Horton, Ned Hanigan and Lachie Swinton have been pencilled in by Rennie as potential Wallabies for when he announces his first squad of the year once Super Rugby AU has concluded.
Of particular interest are the position some players are listed under. James O’Connor is considered an inside centre option despite playing at flyhalf for the Reds, and Matt To’omua is among the no.10s even though he’s lined up in the midfield the last two weeks.
Reece Hodge’s days as a Wallabies winger look to be over, with the Melbourne utility’s name listed at both inside and outside centre. Ramm, Tom Wright, Filipo Dauguno and reigning John Eales medallist Marika Koroibete are the four wide men.
In addition to Hodge, there are three other players in two positions: Johnson-Holmes (tighthead and loosehead prop), Hanigan (lock and blindside flanker) and back-rowers Pete Samu and Harry Wilson (both blindside flanker and number eight).
Allan Alaalatoa has been listed solely as a tighthead prop despite calls to move him to the other side of the scrum to allow him and Taniela Tupou to both start, and Reds captain Liam Wright is only among the opensides alongside Hooper and club teammate Fraser McReight, even though he’s switched between no.6 and no.7 this year.
Inexperienced Rebel forwards Pone Fa’amausili and Trevor Hosea are included in the 44-man group, two of 17 uncapped players on Rennie’s list.
While Test matches are yet to be officially confirmed for 2020, New Zealand is expected to host some form of international rugby around November, either a full Rugby Championship or just the Bledisloe Cup.
Australian players of national interest
Tighthead props: Allan Alaalatoa, Pone Fa’amausili, Jermaine Ainsley, Taniela Tupou, Harry Johnson-Holmes (also loosehead)
Loosehead props: Angus Bell, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Harry Johnson-Holmes (also tighthead)
Hookers: Folau Fainga’a, Connal McInerney, Jordan Uelese, Tom Horton
Locks: Ned Hanigan (also blindside flanker), Rob Simmons, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Trevor Hosea, Matt Philip, Cadeyrn Neville
Blindside flankers: Lachlan Swinton, Ned Hanigan (also lock), Harry Wilson (also number eight), Peter Samu (also number eight), Rob Valetini
Openside flankers: Michael Hooper, Liam Wright, Fraser McReight
Number eights: Harry Wilson (also blindside flanker), Pete Samu (also blindside flanker), Isi Naisarani
Scrumhalves: Nic White, Jake Gordon, Tate McDermott
Flyhalves: Matt To’omua, Noah Lolesio, Will Harrison
Inside centres: James O’Connor, Reece Hodge (also outside centre), Irae Simone
Outside centres: Reece Hodge (also inside centre), Jordan Petaia, Tevita Kuridrani
Wingers: James Ramm, Tom Wright, Marika Koroibete, Filipo Daugunu
Fullbacks: Jack Maddocks, Dane Haylett-Petty, Tom Banks