Rennie dips into French-based talent pool
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Australian coach Dave Rennie on Friday called up towering France-based second row forwards Will Skelton and Rory Arnold, along with hooker Tolu Latu, for their upcoming European tour against Scotland, England and Wales.
The trio is the latest to benefit from the loosening of Australia’s eligibility rules, which used to only allow overseas-based players with at least 60 caps to be in contention.
They were among a 37-man squad for the November games at Murrayfield, Twickenham and the Principality Stadium, but will not feature in the Wallabies’ clash against Japan in Oita on October 23 en-route.
Rennie also named four uncapped players including NSW Waratahs centre Izaia Perese, club teammate Lalakai Foketi, ACT Brumbies hooker Connal McInerney and Melbourne Rebels prop Pone Fa’amausili.
“Firstly we’re extremely grateful to be able to represent Australia on the world stage in the current environment and that’s something that’s not lost on this group,” said Rennie.
“We’ve been building as a squad over the past 18 months or so and to get a chance to head to the Northern Hemisphere and test ourselves against four really strong international sides is a great opportunity to learn more about ourselves.
“To have a few experienced players from overseas join us will no doubt help our development as we continue to grow and improve as a team,” he added.
Stade Rochelais’ Skelton last featured for his country in 2016 before joining England’s Saracens from the NSW Waratahs, while Arnold (Stade Toulousain) and Latu (Stade Francais) earned their last caps in Australia’s quarter-final loss to England at the 2019 World Cup.
(Continue below …)
Australia departs for Japan next Wednesday in a rich vein of form after twice beating world champions South Africa then going back-to-back against Argentina in the just-completed Rugby Championship.
They were bolstered on the win streak by the added experience of Japan-based trio Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon, who were all named for the tour.
Rennie had been sweating on the fitness of powerful centre Kerevi, who injured his ankle in their final game against Argentina and left the ground on crutches, but he appears ready to go again.
A notable omission was young playmaker Noah Lolesio, who started in all three losses to the All Blacks this season before being replaced by Cooper.
Others left behind include fellow youngsters Harry Wilson and Fraser McReight, who Rennie said would benefit from “a decent off-season to make the necessary shifts in their games to excel at Test level”.
Australian squad: Allan Alaalatoa (ACT Brumbies), Rory Arnold (Stade Toulousain), Angus Bell (NSW Waratahs), Quade Cooper (Kintetsu Liners), Filipo Daugunu (Queensland Reds), Pone Fa’amausili (Melbourne Rebels), Folau Fainga’a (ACT Brumbies), Lalakai Foketi (NSW Waratahs), Jake Gordon (NSW Waratahs), Reece Hodge (Melbourne Rebels), Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs), Len Ikitau (ACT Brumbies), Feleti Kaitu’u (Western Force), Andrew Kellaway (Melbourne Rebels), Samu Kerevi (Suntory Sungoliath), Marika Koroibete (Melbourne Rebels), Tolu Latu (Stade Francais), Rob Leota (Melbourne Rebels), Tate McDermott (Queensland Reds), Connal McInerney (ACT Brumbies), Sean McMahon (Suntory Sungoliath), James O’Connor (Queensland Reds), Hunter Paisami (Queensland Reds), Izaia Perese (NSW Waratahs), Jordan Petaia (Queensland Reds), Matt Philip (Melbourne Rebels), Tom Robertson (Western Force), Izack Rodda (Western Force), Pete Samu (ACT Brumbies), Will Skelton (Stade Rochelais), James Slipper (ACT Brumbies) Darcy Swain (ACT Brumbies), Lachlan Swinton (NSW Waratahs), Taniela Tupou (Queensland Reds), Rob Valetini (ACT Brumbies), Nic White (ACT Brumbies), Tom Wright (ACT Brumbies)