Lion-tamer Deans casts a wide net
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has assembled a 49-man training squad in Sydney in preparation for the British and Irish Lions tour this year.
Deans has picked 16 players from the Reds, 13 from the Waratahs, eight from both the Brumbies and Rebels and four from the Force for the pre-season get together as anticipation for the tour in June and July mounts.
There is no place for new cross-code recruit Israel Folau, despite Deans being seen having coffee with the former league and AFL star last week, while Brumbies captain Ben Mowen and Waratahs wing Lachie Turner were also overlooked.
Reds utility forward Radike Samo – the only man to have also faced the Lions back in 2001 – and Force scrumhalf Brett Sheehan, both Test players late last season, also miss out, although the vast majority of last year’s Test squad has been retained.
The Wallaby hierarchy were quick to point out that the announcement isn't a definitive selection, though, with Super Rugby form set to ensure that players can easily be promoted or demoted to the panel.
"It doesn't guarantee them anything," said a Wallaby spokesperson as the squad met up in Sydney.
"If you're not here it doesn't mean you're not a Wallaby this year – it comes down to what you do on the field. There's nothing to stop Israel Folau going out there and playing the house down to make the team."
There are seven uncapped players in the party in the form of Rebels centre Mitch Inman, locks Hugh Pyle and Cadeyrn Neville, Reds flank Jake Schatz and utility back Ben Lucas, and Brumbies halfbacks Nic White and Christian Lealiifano, with the latter having spent nine months on the sidelines after his 2012 season was cruelly cut short with a broken ankle.
The inclusion of lock Hugh McMeniman immediately after his return from a three-year spell in Japan has raised a few eyebrows, with the 29-year-old having won the last of his 21 Test caps back in 2008.
Wallaby pre-season squad: Saia Faingaa, James Hanson, James Slipper, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Will Genia, Ben Lucas, Quade Cooper, Ben Tapaui, Anthony Faingaa, Mike Harris, Dom Shipperley, Digby Ioane, Luke Morahan, Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Paddy Ryan, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu, Berrick Barnes, Rob Horne, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Drew Mitchell, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Dan Palmer, David Pocock, Nic White, Christian Lealiifano, Pat McCabe, Joe Tomane, Cadeyrn Neville, Hugh Pyle, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor, Mitch Inman, Cooper Vuna, Salesi Ma'afu, Hugh McMeniman, Ben McCalman, Nick Cummins.