Big names missing as Wallabies prepare for England series
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Australia coach Dave Rennie admitted on Sunday that the three-Test clash against England would be the biggest challenge of his tenure as he named an expanded squad missing Reece Hodge and Kurtley Beale, but with uncapped former Rugby League star Suliasi Vunivalu.
Eddie Jones’s England have won all eight of their Tests against the Wallabies since the Australian took charge after the 2015 World Cup, including a 3-0 series whitewash six years ago.
New Zealander Rennie, who assumed the reins in 2019, knows Australia have a huge task ahead, starting in Perth on July 2.
“I would say so,” he replied when asked if it was the most important series of his reign.
“The French series was fantastic for us last year, but we are a lot more experienced now.
“We have a number of guys who have got a dozen or so more Tests under their belt and I think we have added a little bit more steel to the group as well.
“So, it’s a big series and we’re excited by it. We’ve spent so much time studying them and we know what’s coming and our challenge is to be good enough to deal with that and apply pressure ourselves.”
Rennie included six uncapped players in his 35-strong squad, including flying wing Vunivalu, who switched to the Queensland Reds in 2019 after successful league career with Melbourne Storm.
“We picked him because of his massive potential,” said Rennie. “We genuinely believe he is good enough to play at this level.”
Waratahs forwards Jed Holloway and David Porecki were also handed an opportunity, along with Brumbies locks Nick Frost and Cadeyrn Neville and Melbourne Rebels prop Pone Fa’amausili.
The squad is otherwise settled with 118-Test veteran Michael Hooper again leading as captain, backed up by fellow centurion James Slipper.
Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete – all based in Japan – had already been announced as Australia’s overseas selections.
Rodda left out
The big omissions were injured lock Izack Rodda, versatile back Hodge and playmaker Beale, who signed for the Waratahs this year after a stint in France to put himself in the frame for a fourth World Cup next year.
Rennie said Hodge missed out due to his “mixed form” but said he could still force his way back if injuries hit the team.
Beale has been nursing an injury but will be considered for the Rugby Championship after the England Tests.
“He had a serious hamstring injury that kept him out for a couple of months, then coming back tweaked a calf,” revealed Rennie.
“So the plan will be … around rehabbing him, trying to get the body right so he’s an option beyond the England series.”
The squad is dominated by players from the Brumbies, who agonisingly lost their Super Rugby Pacific semifinal to the Blues 20-19 on Saturday.
They boast 15 players followed by the Reds (seven), Waratahs (six), Melbourne Rebels (four) and three from Japanese-based clubs. No one from Western Force made the grade.
Wallabies training squad: Allan Alaalatoa, Tom Banks, Angus Bell, Quade Cooper, Pone Fa’amausili, Folau Fainga’a, Nick Frost, Jake Gordon, Michael Hooper (captain), Jed Holloway, Len Ikitau, Andrew Kellaway, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Rob Leota, Noah Lolesio, Lachlan Lonergan, Tate McDermott, Cadeyrn Neville, James O’Connor, Hunter Paisami, Izaia Perese, Jordan Petaia, Matt Philip, David Porecki, Pete Samu, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Darcy Swain, Taniela Tupou, Rob Valetini, Suliasi Vunivalu, Nic White, Harry Wilson, Tom Wright.