Dave Rennie has named the first Wallabies squad of his tenure for the 2020 Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.
While 16 uncapped players have been included in the 44-man group, there is surprisingly no room for incumbent number eight Isi Naisarani and experienced outside centre Tevita Kuridrani. Fellow World Cup squad member Jack Dempsey has also been left out of the squad despite strong form for the Waratahs.
Naisarani and Dempsey’s omissions mean Pete Samu and Harry Wilson are in a head-to-head battle for the no.8 jersey, while Jordan Petaia will be heavily favoured to start in midfield without competition from Kuridrani, as long as he’s fit. The young centre, who started the Wallabies’ last Test at outside centre, was forced from the field in last night’s qualifying final with a head knock.
Despite Thursday’s news that Rugby Australia has created a loophole in the Giteau Law to allow two overseas players to be selected even if they have fewer than 60 caps to their name, no such players have been included. However, with Rennie under the 46-man limit allowed by SANZAAR this season, it is expected two such players will be added in the coming weeks.
Both players are likely to be second-rowers, given there are just five locks in the squad at the moment: Ned Hanigan, Trevor Hosea, Matt Philip and Rob Simmons. French-based forwards Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda and Will Skelton are all likely to be heavily considered for the two remaining places.
Rennie is still yet to name his captain, with incumbent Michael Hooper, front-rower Allan Alaalatoa, halfback Nic White, fullback Dane Haylett-Petty and playmakers James O’Connor and Matt To’omua all thought to be in the running to lead the team.
To’omua and Haylett-Petty were both included despite picking up injuries in the qualifying final defeat to the Reds, as has teammate Jordan Uelese.
The uncapped group includes Brumbies quartet Noah Lolesio, Tom Wright, Irae Simone and Len Ikitau, the latter of who is one of the most surprising inclusions, while there are both five Reds and Waratahs in the squad who are yet to make their Test debut: Filipo Daugunu, Tate McDermott, Fraser McReight, Hunter Paisami and Wilson from Queensland, and Angus Bell, Will Harrison, Tom Horton, James Ramm and Lachie Swinton.
Rebels Hosea and prop Pone Fa’amausili are the last two players without any Test experience in the squad. No Western Force players, uncapped or otherwise, were picked.
There is an evident focus on youth, with Rennie clearly intent on moving on from the recent run of frustrating years for the Wallabies. Just six players are over 30, – O’Connor, To’omua, White, Haylett-Petty, Simmons and James Slipper – with the latter trio the oldest squad members at 31.
Jermaine Ainsley (Melbourne Rebels)
Allan Alaalatoa (ACT Brumbies)
Tom Banks (ACT Brumbies)
Angus Bell* (NSW Waratahs)
Filipo Daugunu* (Queensland Reds)
Pone Fa’amausili* (Melbourne Rebels)
Folau Fainga’a (ACT Brumbies)
Jake Gordon (NSW Waratahs)
Ned Hanigan (NSW Waratahs)
Will Harrison* (NSW Waratahs)
Dane Haylett-Petty (Melbourne Rebels)
Reece Hodge (Melbourne Rebels)
Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs)
Tom Horton* (NSW Waratahs)
Trevor Hosea* (Melbourne Rebels)
Len Ikitau* (ACT Brumbies)
Harry Johnson-Holmes (NSW Waratahs)
Marika Korobiete (Melbourne Rebels)
Noah Lolesio* (ACT Brumbies)
Jack Maddocks (NSW Waratahs)
Tate McDermott* (Queensland Reds)
Fraser McReight* (Queensland Reds)
James O’Connor (Queensland Reds)
Brandon Paenga-Amosa (Queensland Reds)
Hunter Paisami* (Queensland Reds)
Jordan Petaia (Queensland Reds)
Matt Philip (Melbourne Rebels)
Joe Powell (ACT Brumbies, 26)
James Ramm* (NSW Waratahs)
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (Queensland Reds)
Pete Samu (ACT Brumbies)
Rob Simmons (NSW Waratahs)
Irae Simone* (ACT Brumbies)
Scott Sio (ACT Brumbies)
James Slipper (ACT Brumbies)
Lachie Swinton* (NSW Waratahs)
Matt To’omua (Melbourne Rebels)
Taniela Tupou (Queensland Reds)
Jordan Uelese (Melbourne Rebels)
Rob Valetini (ACT Brumbies)
Nic White (ACT Brumbies)
Harry Wilson* (Queensland Reds)
Liam Wright (Queensland Reds)
Tom Wright* (ACT Brumbies)
* denotes uncapped player