New faces named in Wallabies squad
October 4, 2010
Reds lock Van Humphries is the oldest of the newcomers named in the latest Wallabies squad © Getty Images
Twelve uncapped players have been included among a provisional 40-man Australia squad ahead of the seven-match tour of Hong Kong and Europe.
The newcomers are headlined by the evergreen Reds lock Van Humphries, who is the oldest player named at 34. One of just two players in the group to have surpassed his 30th birthday - Australia's most capped second row Nathan Sharpe, 32, is the other.
Humphries made his state debut for Queensland a decade ago. He later played for the NSW Waratahs, and has played for clubs in Japan and Italy and at provincial level in New Zealand while also racking up 65 appearances in Super Rugby through his career.
Humphries missed out on selection earlier in the year, despite impressing during the Reds' revival in Super Rugby, after ending the competition dogged by an ankle injury. The veteran Queenslander is one of just five players among the uncapped group who has yet to work within the national team framework under head coach Robbie Deans.
The others fresh to the scene are the speedy Reds and ex-Australian Schoolboys winger Rod Davies, who was unavailable for selection earlier in the year due to a torn hamstring, this year's Australian Sevens representative, centre Brackin Karauria-Henry, Western Force hooker Nathan Charles; and the ex-Queensland and Western Force second row Pat O'Connor.
Undoubtedly the 'bolter' in the group, the 25-year-old lock did attend Wallaby training sessions in Brisbane earlier in the year and is currently plying his trade with Northland in the ITM Cup, New Zealand's premier provincial competition, after an injury-plagued run through recent seasons. An Australian Under-21 representative in 2006, O'Connor made his Super Rugby debut during the Western Force's maiden season, playing against the NSW Waratahs. He will play for the Waratahs in 2011.
While still to earn their Wallaby numbers by playing a Test for Australia; Mitchell Chapman, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Scott Higginbotham, Richard Kingi, Pat McCabe and Matt Toomua have all had previous involvement, whether by touring with the national squad or by being involved in the Australian Barbarians programme against England earlier in the year.
Lock Mark Chisholm and centre Rob Horne (both injured) are the only players who appeared for Australia during the recent Tri-Nations Series who have not been named, aside from winger Lachie Turner who is away on national Sevens duty. Although a medial ligament strain in his left knee forced McCabe to miss the Commonwealth Games Sevens, it is still possible he will be fit for the Spring Tour.
Deans says the make-up of the training squad reflected the available resources, given the number of players with recent Wallabies experience currently injured. "The fact that most of the uncapped blokes have at least had some time with us is a positive, in terms of their level of background," Deans said. "We are not totally starting at zero as far as their knowledge of our method and our environment is concerned."
Deans revealed the selection of a 40-man group would allow a wider base of players to be exposed to the strategy and methodology that will be employed on the tour. This would give the Wallabies a significant level of back-up depth should it be required.
"It's a reality that not every player who attends the training camp over the next two weeks will go on the Spring Tour, but the time we spend together will still be invaluable for everyone involved," Deans said. "Injuries have been a factor on the Spring Tours we've had previously, especially with the addition of the midweek fixtures. I've no doubt that the demanding schedule we have on this trip, with seven games in five weeks, will test us again."
"Not only are the players who attend the training camp but don't make the final touring squad in line for call ups if we have injuries, their involvement also potentially provides opportunities beyond that if they use the experience to their advantage."
Deans cited Western Force forward Ben McCalman, who missed selection for last year's tour after attending the training camp but is now Australia's incumbent Test No.8, as an example of a player who benefitted from the training camp process. "While Ben didn't make the touring squad last year, he clearly gained confidence from the time spent at our training camp. He then took that boost into both his maiden Super Rugby season earlier this year, and then into the Australian Barbarians and Wallaby programmes," Deans added.
Unlike last year's pre-Spring Tour training camp, which was concluded with an opposed training session that replicated a trial, there will be no simulated 'game' to conclude this time. "It isn't needed," Deans said. "We had two midweek matches on last year's spring Tour and the two-game Australian Barbarians programme earlier this year, as well as Super Rugby, with which to view and assess players.
"Our awareness of the talent available is much greater, as is the players' knowledge of our systems, as is evidenced by the fact that only five of the guys named today haven't been with us in some capacity previously."
While injury remains a factor influencing selection, the Wallabies are at least able to welcome back props Ben Alexander and Sekope Kepu who both missed nearly all of the domestic Test season due to injury. Kepu was ruled out after being injured against the Brumbies midway through Super Rugby, while Alexander damaged his knee in the Test season opener against Fiji in Canberra.
No members of the Australian Sevens squad, currently in its final preparations for next week's Commonwealth Games tournament in Delhi, India, were considered.
Deans said players from that group will come into calculations for the final 36-man touring squad which will be named in Sydney on October 14. The squad will be reduced to 36 players on October 14.
Australia squad: Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Kurtley Beale, Richard Brown, Luke Burgess, Nathan Charles, Mitchell Chapman, Quade Cooper, Ben Daley, Rod Davies, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Huia Edmonds, Rocky Elsom, Anthony Faingaa, Saia Faingaa, Will Genia, Matt Giteau, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, Peter Hynes, Van Humphries, Brackin Karauria-Henry, Sekope Kepu, Richard Kingi, Salesi Ma'afu, Pat McCabe, Ben McCalman, Drew Mitchell, Stephen Moore, Dean Mumm, James O'Connor, Pat O'Connor, David Pocock, Benn Robinson, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Matt Toomua.
Saturday, October 30
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