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Exclusive: Quade, Hooper to miss World Cup selection as Jorgensen rockets into squad

9th August, 2023
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9th August, 2023
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Quade Cooper is set to be the headline omission from the Wallabies, with Eddie Jones to instead back Ben Donaldson to fill the utility role behind rookie Carter Gordon.

Cooper, 35, kicked a match-levelling penalty in Bledisloe II, but his late fumble allowed the All Blacks to scrum to victory.

His axing is set to end his international career.

The Roar also understands Max Jorgensen, the uncapped 18-year-old rising star who featured in Jones’ April training squad, has also entered the selection frame after recently returning to the training paddock.

But Michael Hooper – the Wallabies’ most capped captain – won’t be included The Roar understands, with the 31-year-old still being hampered by a calf injury a month after being battered by the Springboks in Pretoria.

It comes just days after Hooper, who was named along with James Slipper as co-captains by Jones in June ahead of The Rugby Championship, said at the Waratahs’ presentation night in Sydney he was “desperate” to be on the plane to France.

Fraser McReight’s performance in Dunedin appears to have sealed one of 33 precious plane tickets to Paris on August 17 ahead of their World Cup opener against Georgia at the Stade de France on September 9.

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Michael Hooper is set to miss selection in Eddie Jones’ World Cup squad. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

The 24-year-old led the Junior Wallabies to the 2019 under-20s world championship final in Argentina and has long been seen as Hooper’s heir apparent.

Hooper’s calf injury, which he picked up at training ahead of the Wallabies’ second Test of the year against Argentina, as well as his struggles in the contact zone opened the door for the Reds openside flanker and burgeoning Brumbies back-rower Tom Hooper.

Jones will unveil his squad on Thursday evening in Darwin, with the Wallabies to have a four-day camp in the Top End and spend time in Arnhem Land.

It’s a similar camp to 2003, where Jones took the Wallabies to the region ahead of their home World Cup campaign.

McReight is expected to be joined by Reds teammates Tate McDermott, Jordan Petaia and Suliasi Vunivalu, who shapes as one of the more controversial selections.

Fraser McReight of the Wallabies celebrates after scoring a try during The Rugby Championship match between the Australian Wallabies and the South African Springboks at Adelaide Oval on August 27, 2022 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Fraser McReight is set to play in his first World Cup campaign. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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Matt Faessler, who made a strong impression on debut last weekend against the All Blacks in Dunedin, is also likely to be included along with Jordan Uelese and Dave Porecki despite minor injuries suffered in Dunedin.

Fellow injured prop Taniela Tupou (ribs) will also be included in the squad.

With centres Samu Kerevi (hand) and Len Ikitau (shoulder) recovering from recent injuries, Jones is expected to include Lalakai Foketi to bolster his midfield options along with Izaia Perese and Jordan Petaia.

There is not expected to be room for Tom Wright nor Dylan Pietsch, but teenage sensation Jorgensen, who scored a brace of tries on debut against the Brumbies and impressed immensely in his debut season before suffering a knee-injury against the Crusaders in May, could yet earn selection.

If indeed he’s included, it will be a bold play by Jones and likely one with a view to the future. But there’s no doubting his immense potential, with Jorgensen displaying a sense of calmness at the back for the Waratahs in his rookie season, as well as the ability to find his way to the tryline at both fullback and on the wing.

The news is not as good for Jed Holloway, who has been left out The Roar has been told.

It remains to be seen if Jones takes three halfbacks, but McDermott, who became the 86th Wallabies captain last weekend, will be joined by Nic White.

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But Ryan Lonergan, who shapes as a long-term captain for the Brumbies, could miss out after failing to be selected by Jones throughout the TRC despite being in the squad. Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, who provides a running threat and can play on the wing, is another option.

If Jones opts for just two halfbacks, he would be able to call upon former All Blacks World Cup-winning skipper Tawera Kerr-Barlow from France if necessary.

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones talks with Nic White during a Wallabies training camp. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

With Reece Hodge unlikely to be selected, Jones has seemingly turned to Donaldson to fill the utility role.

The 24-year-old played alongside McReight, as well as flying winger Mark Nawaqanitawase, with the Junior Wallabies but has divided opinion since.

A controversial selection on last year’s Spring Tour, Donaldson debuted off the bench against Italy but missed a late shot at goals that saw the Wallabies slump to their maiden defeat to the European nation.

He was later given the No.10 jersey against Wales, before Noah Lolesio helped seal an important comeback off the bench in Cardiff.

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Talented and well-liked, Donaldson started the year at fullback before being shifted to fly-half.

But he struggled to lead the side around with the authority of a Wallabies playmaker and missed important kicks in general play and from the kicking tee at vital times. Nor was his physicality in defence up to Super Rugby standard.

He showed glimpses of what he was capable of later in the season, performing strongly against Fiji before several nice touches against the Blues in their quarter-final loss.

Australia's fly-half Ben Donaldson (C) reacts after missing a decisive penalty during the rugby union Test match between Italy and Australia on November 12, 2022 at the Artemio-Franchi stadium in Florence, Tuscany. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP) (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)

Ben Donaldson (C) is set to be taken as Eddie Jones’ utility back. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP) (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)

Yet, it wasn’t enough to convince the Waratahs to upgrade his contract and, with other players rising through the ranks, they didn’t fight to keep him when the Force came in over the top and lured him across to Perth.

As well as the chosen 33, Jones is expected to invite up to 10 more players to join him at the camp.

Those players are likely to feature for Australia A, who will take on Portugal – the Wallabies’ Pool C opponents – on August 26, the day before the Wallabies meet France in their final match before the World Cup.

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Several Australian players will then be invited to play for the Barbarians in a handful of exhibition matches across the United Kingdom.

The fixtures have been organised to give players an opportunity to be in the same region should injury strike.

World Rugby increased squads from 31 to 33 for this year’s tournament given the increased understanding of concussion, which has led to 12-day standdowns.

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