Rugby

Speight named in Oz squad

2014-07-23 07:56
Ewen McKenzie (AFP)

Sydney - Australia coach Ewen McKenzie included Henry Speight in his squad for the Rugby Championship on Wednesday even though the Brumbies wing will be ineligible for selection for half of the campaign.

The in-form Fijian will miss back-to-back Tests against New Zealand and the clash with South Africa in Perth at the start of Australia's campaign before he qualifies for the Wallabies on residential grounds on September 11.

The tackle-busting winger was the only uncapped player included in the 32-man squad, which featured few changes from that for the June Test series against France which Australia swept 3-0.

"We've named a 32-man squad so not everybody will get on the park," McKenzie said.

"He's been in good form and he's going to become eligible. He was involved in the squad in June informally and this just recognises where he is.

"There's no reason why he can't be involved in the preparations and learn a bit more about what we're about."

Speight, unmistakeable for his huge Afro, comes into the reckoning soon after incumbent winger Nick Cummins, equally noticeable for his curly blonde mop, effectively brought an end to his test career by electing to move abroad to play in Japan.

"There's always players leaving and other players coming through," added McKenzie.

"Obviously, a crowd favourite in Nick Cummins departing but a really interesting guy coming through in Henry Speight."

Hooker Stephen Moore, who captained the side in the opening test against France only to suffer a knee injury, was not available for selection so flanker Michael Hooper will skipper the side in the southern hemisphere championship, which also includes Argentina.

Reds halfbacks Will Genia (ankle) and Quade Cooper (shoulder) are also unavailable so 37-cap scrumhalf Luke Burgess will get a chance to press his case for a test recall three years after he last played at the 2011 World Cup.

"I spoke to Will this morning," McKenzie said. "He's back running but he's still way off being able to play. Quade's obviously looking at further along in the series. We'll keep tracking them."

Kurtley Beale, who came off the bench in all three Tests against the French, was named as one of two flyhalves alongside his New South Wales Waratahs team-mate Bernard Foley.

The Waratahs play the Brumbies in a Super Rugby semi-final this weekend and McKenzie said the form of the Australian teams in the competition was one of several good signs for his mission to bridge the gap with New Zealand.

"Each time we played them last year we got closer on the scoreboard but we didn't beat them," he said.

"That's the reality of it. It gets down to the 80 minutes. The raw ingredients are there but we've got to do something with them."

Australia play their first match against the world champions in Sydney on August 16 with the return match in Auckland the following week.

Squad:

Forwards - Wycliff Palu, Ben McCalman, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper (captain), Matt Hodgson, Scott Fardy, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Sam Carter, Ben Alexander, Pek Cowan, Sekope Kepu, James Slipper, Scott Sio, James Hanson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Nathan Charles.

Backs - Israel Folau, Rob Horne, Henry Speight, Joe Tomane, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Pat McCabe, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali'ifano, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Luke Burgess, Nic White, Nick Phipps.


Read more on:    wallabies  |  ewen mckenzie  |  rugby
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