New dawn for Wallabies with 16 uncapped players in bumper squad


Sydney (AFP)

Sixteen uncapped players were included Sunday in new coach Dave Rennie's first Wallabies squad, with the youthful line-up "chomping at the bit" ahead of a coronavirus-affected Rugby Championship.

The New Zealander took over in July with Australia languishing just seventh in the rankings and a host of experienced players calling it quits following last year's World Cup.

He has been closely following the Super Rugby AU tournament and his bumper 44-man squad for Tests later this year combines a smattering of experience and plenty of young prospects as he looks to rebuild for the next World Cup in France.

"This is a really exciting day for us," said Rennie.

"We've picked this squad on form and on potential and I know the whole group are chomping at the bit to get stuck in and push their case for a Wallaby jersey."

He didn't name a captain, but incumbent Michael Hooper (99 Tests) was included and has made clear he is keen to remain in the role.

Lock Rob Simmons (100 Tests), prop James Slipper (96), and the likes of Scott Sio, James O'Connor and Matt Toomua all bring big-match experience.

But Rennie is looking to the future with 16 uncapped players and a further 13 with fewer than 10 appearances in a Wallabies jersey.

Among the first-timers were Queensland Reds' scrum-half Tate McDermott, flanker Fraser McReight, and NSW Waratahs' goal-kicking sensation Will Harrison, all 21.

'Tahs prop Angus Bell, son of former Wallabies prop Mark Bell, is the youngest at just 19.

Other newcomers include exciting centre Noah Lolesio, Brumbies teammate Irae Simone and Melbourne Rebels' pair Pone Fa'amausili and Trevor Hosea.

- Injury worries -

Back-rower Isi Naisarani and midfielder Tevita Kuridrani were the major omissions, and Rennie opted against any foreign-based players.

"When we picked the squad, we had to consider how we will handle the rigours of the Test calendar ahead," said Rennie.

"It is obviously a big squad which is due to Covid restrictions as we can't bring players in and out but each of one them is there on merit."

He already has some injury problems after a bruising Super Rugby AU playoff game on Saturday between the Reds and Rebels.

Hooker Jordan Uelese appears to be the biggest worry after leaving the field with what looked like a shoulder injury.

His Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty also limped off, with playmaker Toomua and Reds' outside back Jordan Petaia joining the walking wounded.

The four-nation Rugby Championship is due to be played in Australia between November 7 and December 12, after governing body SANZAAR opted against early frontrunners New Zealand as host.

Australian quarantine regulations were considered more relaxed, with teams able to train together in large groups while in mandatory 14-day isolation.

This was important given neither South Africa nor Argentina have resumed competitive rugby since the pandemic brought sport to a halt earlier this year.

To compensate, the All Blacks' two Bledisloe Cup Tests against the Wallabies, due to be played in Australia, will now be in New Zealand. Dates have not been confirmed, but October 17 and 24 appear most likely.

Australia squad: Jermaine Ainsley, Allan Alaalatoa, Tom Banks, Angus Bell, Filipo Daugunu, Pone Fa'amausili, Folau Fainga'a, Jake Gordon, Ned Hanigan, Will Harrison, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper, Tom Horton, Trevor Hosea, Len Ikitau, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Marika Korobiete, Noah Lolesio, Jack Maddocks, Tate McDermott, Fraser McReight, James O'Connor, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Matt Philip, Joe Powell, James Ramm, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Pete Samu, Rob Simmons, Irae Simone, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Lachie Swinton, Matt Toomua, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright, Tom Wright