Rugby

5 newbies in Wallabies squad for Ireland series

2018-05-30 13:03
Michael Cheika (Getty Images)

Sydney - Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has named five uncapped players in his 32-man squad to take on Ireland in their three-Test series in Australia in June. 

Reds back-rower Caleb Timu, Brumbies fullback Tom Banks, Melbourne Rebels utility back Joe Maddocks along with Reds and Brumbies hookers Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Folau Fainga’a are the debutants in Cheika's squad, who take on Ireland in the first Test at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on June 9. 

Crusaders loose forward Pete Samu has not been named in the squad, but still remains a chance of playing for the Wallabies this season. 

Samu signed a two-year deal with the Brumbies this week, making the Melbourne-born forward eligible for the Wallabies, pending a release from New Zealand Rugby, due to his Super Rugby contract obligations. 

It's a decision NZR said on Tuesday they were still mulling over and on Wednesday, when Cheika named his squad, he said he couldn't pick Samu, but the backrower had a spot in the squad should he be released. 

There is no deadline for NZR to approve Rugby Australia's request to release Samu for June, leaving both he and the Wallabies in limbo, though Cheika said he hoped there would be more clarity on the decision on Thursday. 

"I've been told I can't select him but there is a spot for him there," he told Rugby Australia's official website. 

"At this point, the decision's in other hands. I'm not really involved in that part of it but I'm hoping that there'll be some more clarity about that tomorrow." 

Should that clearance not come, Lukhan Tui is likely to don the number six jersey in the first Test, with first-choice blindside Ned Hanigan not expected to be back from a knee injury until the second Test. 

Uncapped Timu is another option to fill the back-row alongside David Pocock and Michael Hooper, but he would most likely slot in at eight. 

Banks' selection is the biggest surprise of the potential debutants in the group named for the June Series. 

He had two of his best games in the Brumbies' recent South Africa tour, scoring the game-turner against the Bulls in Pretoria last weekend. 

Maddocks is another new face in the backs, confirming his widely-expected inclusion in the squad, after a sensational start to the season in Melbourne. 

The wing spots were among the most-hotly contested, with Maddocks and Banks beating out seasoned wing Henry Speight as well as the Reds' Izaia Perese, who was on the verge of a Test debut in 2017, and giant Waratahs wing Taqele Naiyaravoro. 

"I think it was just really tight," Cheika said. 

"We went for, we've got very, very good attacking wingers and we look at the all-round components to make sure that we're solid in relation to our 'D' and also our kicking game and the kicking game that will be coming from Ireland to us. 

"So, I suppose we're trying to balance our back three players in that respect. And then of course you've got a guy like Banks, who's come through with really strong performances in the last minute and I think he really deserves the opportunity." 

Reds bolter Paenga-Amosa has capped a meteoric rise from Shute Shield last year to a potential Wallabies cap, named in his first Test squad, alongside fellow rookie Faingaa and 2017 breakout star Jordan Uelese. 

Paenga-Amosa's progress has been swift, and Cheika backed him to be right in the mix for a spot in the first Test. 

"Brandon's gone up against Malcolm Marx and performed right at the level," he said. 

"For me, a guy who comes out of club rugby Southern Districts, New South Wales and then he played National Rugby Championship, got his opportunity out there, was spotted by the Reds and has taken that opportunity with both hands. 

"Now his challenge will be to get himself in the match 23 and I'm sure he'll, what I've heard about him, and only having a small amount of contact with him, he's going to do everything he can to be in that position." 

Faingaa's inclusion was hanging on a possible suspension for head-butting, but having been handed just one match on the sideline, he will be available free for all three Tests. 

"We had him in camp for a little bit last year, he handled himself really well and he's playing there in between Scotty (Sio) and Allan (Alaalatoa) down in Canberra and he's got a good bit of swagger, like his attitude and I think he'll take an opportunity with both hands," said Cheika. 

Brumbies scrumhalf Joe Powell has edged out Jake Gordon and Michael Ruru to be the side's third-choice number nine, behind established duo Will Genia and Nick Phipps. 

Wallabies squad for June internationals: 

Forwards

Sekope Kepu, Tom Robertson, Scott Sio, Taniela Tupou, Allan Alaalatoa, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Jordan Uelese, Izack Rodda, Folau Fainga’a, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons, Michael Hooper, Ned Hanigan, Lukhan Tui, Caleb Timu, David Pocock 

Backs

Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Jack Maddocks, Sefa Naivalu, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell, Curtis Rona

Read more on:    wallabies  |  michael cheika  |  rugby
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