Deans turns to youth in 30-man squad
May 27, 2010
Robbie Deans has retained Rocky Elsom as captain despite speculation to the contrary © Getty Images
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans hailed the increasing depth in Australia's ranks as he named seven uncapped players in his 30-man squad for Australia's four upcoming June Tests.
Five new frontrowers have been called upon including the Queensland Reds' self-styled 'tripod' made up of young props Ben Daley and Laurie Weeks and upcoming hooker Saia Faingaa, as well as Brumbies rake Huia Edmonds and prop Salesi Ma'afu. Western Force flanker Matt Hodgson and Waratahs centre Rob Horne are the two other uncapped players.
Australia play England twice, Fiji and Ireland throughout June. A further ten uncapped players have been named as part of an Australian Barbarians side who will play England in two midweek games during their Tour down under. The fringe players from the primary 30-man squad will complete the Barbarians squad for those matches. The entire 40-man group will be managed by Wallabies coaching staff, giving Deans the chance to observe a wide pool of potential World Cup players a year out from the New Zealand-hosted tournament.
Brumbies flanker Rocky Elsom retains the Wallabies captaincy and veteran Force captain Nathan Sharpe has been selected at age 32, but it's an otherwise youthful 30-man squad with an average age of just 24 years and eight months. Only 11 of the players had played for Australia before Deans took over in 2008 and only seven had played more than four Tests at that time.
Veteran Waratahs Phil Waugh (79 caps) and Al Baxter (69 caps) are among the high profile names missing despite their team reaching the Super 14 finals. The New South Wales franchise have eight players selected, while the Brumbies lead with nine, the Reds have seven and the Force have six, including five forwards. Waugh's omission comes despite the absence of George Smith, who has opted to leave Australian rugby.
Hooker Stephen Moore's broken jaw offers a chance for his Brumbies replacement Edmonds to press for his first cap at the age of 28 alongside Faingaa, 23, whose twin brother Anthony made the Barbarians selection. Other injured players include prop Benn Robinson, lock James Horwill and No.8 Wycliff Palu, but Deans said the injuries allowed him to expose even more players to the Wallabies set-up, a strategy he believes has benefited Australian rugby during his reign.
"There's no doubt that we've widened the base a little bit in terms of playing depth," Deans said. "We needed to, and the progress we've made has shown through this year during the Super 14."
Deans said the squad was carrying a number of injured players, the most prominent being Reds skipper Will Genia, but he insisted it was worth the trouble because this squad was built with an eye to developing the shape of the New Zealand 2011 group.
"We looked at the situation with regards to each of the players who are injured. When they would be able to play again and what contingency options we had, prior to their inclusion, both in the case of the Wallabies squad, but also the Barbarians group.
"In some instances, players have been included for development purposes as much so that they can gain background with us in terms of our methodology and training, as for when they will be back on the field. If these players beat their scheduled recovery timelines, and are available to us sooner than is currently expected, that will be a bonus.
"From a selection perspective on a week-to-week basis, it's certainly not ideal, but if we are going to add to our playing base ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup, we need to get guys started. This programme, which incorporates the midweek Tour matches played by the Australian Barbarians, was designed to allow us to do that."
Wallabies squad for June Tests:
Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Kurtley Beale, Richard Brown, Luke Burgess, Mark Chisholm, Quade Cooper, Pek Cowan, Ben Daley, Rocky Elsom (capt), Huia Edmonds, Saia Faingaa, Will Genia, Matt Giteau, Stephen Hoiles, Matt Hodgson, Rob Horne, Peter Hynes, Digby Ioane, Salesi Ma'afu, Drew Mitchell, Dean Mumm, James O'Connor, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Nathan Sharpe, Lachie Turner, Josh Valentine, Laurie Weeks