Australian Rugby - Wallabies v British & Irish Lions
Quade Cooper omitted, George Smith injured
ESPN Staff
May 19, 2013

Quade Cooper is the most notable omission from Wallabies coach Robbie Deans' initial 25-man squad to take on the touring British & Irish Lions in June and July.

Berrick Barnes, James O'Connor and Christian Lealiifano are the preferred five-eighth options for the three-Test series, although Deans will add a further six players on June 11 to complete the squad.

Cooper was omitted despite his strong halves partnership with Queensland Reds teammate Will Genia and his impressive form in the recent Super Rugby rounds, but Deans denied he was left out as a lingering result of his "toxic" comments last year. Deans said, instead: "Test rugby's another level from Super Rugby. We would like to see Quade defend in the front line. We would like him to assert himself physically in the game because it's an element you can't avoid at Test level. He has a great opportunity to do that and dent the Lions' self-belief at the same time playing for the Reds.

"There are still six positions to be resolved. We all know Quade's history in the group; I've selected him on 38 occasions, I understand. He's had a lot of faith and support from me; that's not an issue. To suggest otherwise is nonsense. He will get the opportunity to play against the Lions ... and he understands what's important at Test level, and it's an opportunity for him to press his claims."

Deans also suggested that Kurtley Beale had a chance to press his claims but the player's welfare and well-being currently were paramount. "Clearly he's got to get through that [rehabilitation] process and then it'll be a matter of monitoring his physical and mental state," Deans said.

With veteran George Smith ruled out with a "medial collateral" knee injury sustained playing for the Brumbies against New South Wales Waratahs, Deans and his fellow selectors opted for young guns Michael Hooper and Liam Gill as his openside flankers.

Rugby league convert Israel Folau, Lealiifano and Brumbies No. 8 and captain Ben Mowen are the three uncapped players in the squad.

Robbie Deans explains his squad selections

Reds hooker Saia Faingaa gained inclusion as Stephen Moore's back-up hooker after incumbent rake Tatafu Polota-Nau fractured his right arm in Saturday night's 28-22 win over the Brumbies. Deans also confirmed that Pat McCabe was omitted after sustaining "what we believe to be a posterior cruciate ligament tear / possible rupture". Deans said, however, that "players can return to play faster from those so it's not of the realms of possibility that Pat can return to be involved in the series".

The captain will be named when Deans finalises his squad on June 11.

"It wasn't an easy group to finalise, and there were a lot of hard phone calls made last night and this morning," Deans said in reference to the contact made to players who had been involved in the pre-tour logistics camps but who hadn't been selected.

"Today is not the end of it for players who haven't been named. There are six more places to be filled in the squad while every Super Rugby player in Australia will have the opportunity to play international rugby against the Lions during the tour matches, as will the country representative players. It's an exciting time."


Props: Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Sekope Kepu (Waratahs), Benn Robinson (Waratahs), James Slipper (Reds).

Hookers: Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Saia Faingaa (Reds).

Locks: James Horwill (Reds), Rob Simmons (Reds), Sitaleki Timani (Waratahs).

Backrowers: Dave Dennis (Waratahs), Liam Gill (Reds), Scott Higginbotham (Rebels), Michael Hooper (Waratahs), Ben Mowen (Brumbies), Wycliff Palu (Waratahs).

Half-backs: Will Genia (Reds).

Five-eighths: Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies), James O'Connor (Rebels).

Centres: Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs), Rob Horne (Waratahs).

Wingers: Nick Cummins (Force), Digby Ioane (Reds), Joe Tomane (Brumbies).

Fullbacks: Berrick Barnes (Waratahs), Israel Folau (Waratahs).

How do you rate Robbie Deans' initial 25-man squad to face the British & Irish Lions? Who will win the Tom Richards Cup? Leave a message below to join the conversation with your fellow rugby fans.

© ESPN Australia / New Zealand with AAP

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