Dave Rennie’s transformation of the Wallabies from a youth group to a hardcore line up of seasoned pros under further relaxation of the Giteau Law continued Friday when he named Will Skelton among three overseas-based players for the spring tour.
Rennie named a 37-man squad for Tests against Japan, Scotland, Wales and England with Waratahs centre Izaia Perese a chance to make his Test debut five years after taken on a spring tour as a development candidate by Michael Cheika.
Perese, who had a brief stint in the NRL with Brisbane Broncos, joins Brumbies hooker Connal McInerney among the four uncapped players called up for the tour.
The Brumbies dominate the squad with 10 selections with six from the Reds, Rebels and Waratahs, three from Western Force and six overseas-based players.
Skelton, who hasn’t played for the Wallabies in five years, will join 2019 World Cup squad members Rory Arnold and Tolu Latu as Rennie makes the most of an easing of restrictions in Rugby Australia’s adherance to the Giteau Law.
Australia gave significant game time to young flyhalf Noah Lolesio earlier in the domestic campaign but after thrilling Rennie against France his form dipped in the Bledisloe Cup and he will miss the tour altogether, staying behind at the Brumbies. Fellow youngsters Harry Wilson, 21, and Fraser McReight, 22, will also be left behind after spending long stretches with the squad this year.
Since the 2-1 series win over France, that also featured raw youngsters Tate McDermott, Hunter Paisami and Len Ikitau in leading roles, Rennie has overhauled the Wallabies age profile.
In have come Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon with James O’Connor also returning to fitness, and Nic White taking back the No.9 jersey from McDermott. Only Ikitau has cemented his starting place this campaign.
It would be wrong to suggest Rennie had any ulterior motive in putting up his young lambs for a Bledisloe slaughter – but the nature of those losses, and the subsequent success of experienced players from abroad, has shifted the narrative on allowing more experienced overseas based talent to return to the fold.
Skelton, 29, had thought himself lost to the national team after playing the last of his 18 Tests in 2016.
“Obviously, not being eligible is tough, not being able to put your hand up to play,” Skelton said last week.
“If the opportunity does come along I’ll definitely put my hand up. You can see how well they’re playing at the moment, and you miss that environment, the international field.
“You almost ask yourself if you’ve still got it and good enough. You want to test yourself against the best. It would be awesome to link up. If it happens, it happens.”
Perese had been pencilled in to join the Wallabies squad ahead of the first Test in June but suffered a shoulder injury just before the squad was named by Rennie.
His selection is the latest chapter in an unsettled football career and one he hopes will find some stability.
He represented the Reds on 17 occasions before leaving for the Broncos, but was sacked having played just two games after pleading guilty to supplying a dangerous drug. He avoided a conviction and was given permission to travel to France, where he played a season with Top 14 club Bayonne.
The Waratahs brought him home in early 2021 and he was one of the club’s few shining lights this season.
It’s likely Perese’s best chance of a cap comes in the opening Test against Japan and from the bench with Ikitau, Kerevi and Hunter Paisami, back after leaving the squad for his child’s birth, ahead of him.
Elsewhere there is return to the squad for Filipo Daugunu who broke his wrist in the opening Test of the season against France and has found his place claimed superbly by Andrew Kellaway.
Allan Alaalatoa (50, Brumbies, 27)
Rory Arnold (26, Stade Toulousain, 31)
Angus Bell (12, NSW Waratahs, 21)
Quade Cooper (74, Kintetsu Liners, 33)
Filipo Daugunu (6, Queensland Reds, 26)
Pone Fa’amausili* (uncapped, Melbourne Rebels, 24)
Folau Fainga’a (21, Brumbies, 26)
Lalakai Foketi* (uncapped, NSW Waratahs, 26)
Jake Gordon (10, NSW Waratahs, 28)
Reece Hodge (53, Melbourne Rebels, 27)
Michael Hooper (c) (115, NSW Waratahs, 29)
Len Ikitau (9, Brumbies, 23)
Feleti Kaitu’u (3, Western Force, 26)
Andrew Kellaway (9, Melbourne Rebels, 25)
Samu Kerevi (38, Suntory Sungoliath, 28)
Marika Koroibete (42, Melbourne Rebels, 29)
Tolu Latu (19, Stade Francais, 28)
Rob Leota (2, Melbourne Rebels, 24)
Tate McDermott (11, Queensland Reds, 23)
Connal McInerney* (uncapped, Brumbies, 26)
Sean McMahon (27, Suntory Sungoliath, 27)
James O’Connor (57, Queensland Reds, 31)
Hunter Paisami (11, Queensland Reds, 23)
Izaia Perese* (uncapped, NSW Waratahs, 24)
Jordan Petaia (14, Queensland Reds, 21)
Matt Philip (19, Melbourne Rebels, 27)
Tom Robertson (26, Western Force, 26)
Izack Rodda (30, Western Force, 24)
Pete Samu (15, Brumbies, 29)
Will Skelton (18, Stade Rochelais, 29)
James Slipper (110, Brumbies, 32)
Darcy Swain (9, Brumbies, 24)
Lachlan Swinton (6, NSW Waratahs, 24)
Taniela Tupou (35, Queensland Reds, 25)
Rob Valetini (14, Brumbies, 23)
Nic White (43, Brumbies, 31)
Tom Wright (5, Brumbies, 24)