Injury at heart of Wallaby setback
Wallaby coach Dave Rennie admits he’ll need to re-think his overseas picks following the three Tests against England after revealing lock Izack Rodda faces up to three months on the sideline with a foot injury.
Rodda, a Test regular, had previously been confident he could feature in next month’s Tests against Eddie Jones’ touring side but the Western Force star is now likely to miss those and also the ensuing Rugby Championship.
Rennie named a 35-man squad on Sunday for the England series, with Japan-based trio Quade Cooper, Marika Koroibete and Samu Kerevi the three overseas selections Rennie is allowed under the Giteau Law.
But the coach acknowledged one of that trio could make way after the July series for one of the France-based forwards Rory Arnold or Will Skelton to fill the void set to be left by Rodda.
“It is worse [than expected],” Rennie said of Rodda, who was among the Wallabies’ best last year.
“He could be out for as much as three months.
“The issue [with selecting the France-based players to face England] is that they played quarterfinals overnight [and getting] clarity on when they’re available.
“It’s easier to leave those guys out of the England series and maybe have a look at it again post that.”
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Rennie hinted a debut Test cap for NRL star Suliasi Vunivalu was close and simply said he was “confident” the off-contract Queensland Reds wing would remain in Australian rugby beyond this season.
“We’ve picked him because of his massive potential and we think he can accelerate development inside the camp,” Rennie said.
“He’s had his troubles with injury – we’ve seen glimpses of real quality – we are just keen to get our hands on him.”
Rennie said versatile back Reece Hodge’s mixed form and “scratchy start to the season” counted against him while Matt To’omua’s international career appears over after he too was overlooked for the squad.
In-form Reds’ No.7 Fraser McReight was another notable omission, Rennie not keen to carry another specialist on the bench behind captain Michael Hooper and preferring to free McReight to feature for Australia A in the three-game Pacific Nations Cup campaign.
Also in the national squad for the first time are NSW Waratahs forwards Jed Holloway and Dave Porecki – the frontrunner to start at hooker – and 33-year-old Brumbies lock Caderyn Neville.
Tighthead prop Pone Fa’amausili and Brumbies second row forward Nick Frost are the other two uncapped players selected.
Cooper, James O’Connor and Noah Lolesio are the chosen playmakers, Rennie is confident O’Connor will be fit despite knee and hamstring issues.
His Reds teammate Taniela Tupou is hopeful of overcoming his knee injury to play, while Kurtley Beale is due back in Australia following his French rugby stint but wasn’t considered after hamstring and calf issues.
The group will assemble on the Sunshine Coast from Thursday, with the opener in Perth on July 2 before the second Test in Brisbane on July 9 and a potential decider in Sydney on July 16.
Australia 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.