New faces named in Wallabies squad
August 7, 2012
Australia U20s skipper Liam Gill is flanked by his predecesso Jake Schatz and Waratahs lock Kane Douglas following their call-up to the Wallabies © Getty Images
Australia coach Robbie Deans has named three uncapped players in his squad for the forthcoming Rugby Championship including U20s captain Liam Gill.
The other newcomers in the 30-man squad are Gill's predecessor Jake Schatz and Waratahs lock Kane Douglas while there are also recalls for winger Drew Mitchell and back-row forward Radike Samo after the pair recovered from injury having missed the June internationals.
Mitchell returns following ankle and hamstring injuries which temporarily stalled his career, and has gradually built up his strength and fitness base since returning to playing duties on the Waratahs tour of South Africa in May. Samo re-enters after a shoulder injury blighted his Super Rugby season.
Gill, who has made strong strides in his two full seasons with the Reds, is included in the senior Wallaby squad for the first time after being selected for his third successive IRB Junior World Championship earlier in the year.
The promising flanker who, like Wallabies skipper David Pocock, earned his first fulltime Super Rugby contract at the age of 17; has already represented Australia with distinction on the HSBC World Sevens Series circuit.
Schatz, who led the U20s to the final at Rosario in Argentina in 2010, has also made solid progress in the time since with the Reds, cementing his position as a regular member of the starting line-up this term when he featured in all but one of the matches played by the Australian conference winners.
The inclusion of Gill, plus that of June newcomer Michael Hooper of the Brumbies, bolsters the Wallabies' back-up resources behind the country's premier openside flanker and captain, Pocock.
"There's an injection of players in areas where we historically haven't had a lot of depth, openside being an obvious one which is great for those two blokes (Gill and Hooper)," Deans said. "Michael Hooper has had a taste and introduction and Liam fulfilled his obligations to the (Australian) under-20s before we involved him in this instance.
"It's good to have those two points of enthusiasm added to the group. Schatzy obviously gets rewarded for his efforts through Super Rugby, where he's been very consistent and he's grown rapidly."
Douglas, who has been involved in Wallaby training groups previously, and appeared for the Australian Barbarians against England in 2010, has developed into one of Australia's best set-piece exponents in recent times. The selection of the 122kg second rower, plus that the 120kg Sitaleki Timani, adds size and power to the Australian set-piece.
The two young locks, along with third-season Wallaby second rower Rob Simmons, will be mentored by Test centurion Nathan Sharpe. The 34-year-old's decision to stay on for the Rugby Championship provides an opportunity to chase down George Smith as the second most capped Wallaby. "Sharpey is probably playing the best rugby of his career, to be honest," Deans said. "It becomes very clear when the end looms and he's enjoying his rugby."
The squad features an 18-forward, 12-back split, with there being a wide degree of versatility among the backline options chosen.
Australia squad: Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Kurtley Beale, Quade Cooper, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Anthony Faingaa, Saia Faingaa, Will Genia, Liam Gill, Mike Harris, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper, Rob Horne, Digby Ioane, Sekope Kepu, Drew Mitchell, Stephen Moore, Nick Phipps, David Pocock (captain), Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Radike Samo, Jake Schatz, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Sitaleki Timani, Nic White.
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