Lealiifano gives Australia confidence ahead of Bok clash
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT: The Wallabies squad of 34 players flew to South Africa on Sunday ahead of their Rugby Championship clash against the Springboks on July 20.
The squad’s Brumbies contingent also joined them after some time off following last weekend’s Super Rugby semifinal in Argentina.
The Wallabies play only one rather than the usual two rounds of Championship games and after their opening round fixture in Johannesburg, they face New Zealand in a second Bledisloe Cup match and a warm-up Test against Samoa before the World Cup.
“Really excited to get away; we’ve been doing some real hard yards up until this point,” Wallabies’ captain and flank Michael Hooper said on Sunday just before departing.
“It’s the first time we’re really getting the full squad together, the Brumbies coming in today, and getting on the plane together and going to work.
“Everyone is so excited about the job, there’s so many carrots throughout the year to go for and strive for, it’s a great opportunity to be a part of.”
Hooper said he was hugely excited by the uncapped trio of backrowers, Isi Naisarani, Liam Wright and Rob Valetini.
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The Wallabies leader was also excited by the recall of veteran playmaker Christian Lealiifano, who played his last Test just over three years ago and was sidelined for 12 months after being diagnosed with leukaemia
“Every team I’ve been a part of a side with him, he adds something so much on and off the field,” Hooper said of Lealiifano.
“Really excited to see him back in the colours and a great reward for a top season.”
The Wallabies will have an unusually long time in South Africa prior to their season-opening Test.
“It’s always helpful to get attuned to the climate over there; it’s sunny and low on oxygen every day so we get a bit of a taste of that [with almost two weeks] over there,” Hooper said.
Among the injured players missing from the squad are veteran forwards David Pocock, Adam Coleman and, Tatafu Polota-Nau.
Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Jack Dempsey, Folau Fainga’a, Michael Hooper (capt), Luke Jones, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Isi Naisarani, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese, Rob Valetini, Liam Wright.
Backs: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Jack Maddocks, Joe Powell, Matt Toomua, Nic White.