Rogers and Sailor named in Australia 'A' squad
May 26, 2002

As expected Mat Rogers and Wendell Sailor have been named in the Australia A rugby team for Saturday's clash with Canada, but Reds second rower Daniel Heenan was a shock selection.

Heenan was surprisingly chosen after just 15 minutes of Super 12 football off the bench in the match against the Sharks, but the former Australian under-19 and under-21 representative has caught the eye of Wallabies coach Eddie Jones.

"He's always been a guy of promise," said Jones. "He missed last season through injury so we're keen to see him out there and perform at a higher level."

While Rogers and Sailor being chosen wasn't startling, Rogers has been named at inside centre even though he has played all season at fullback for the Waratahs, and similarly Brumby Graeme Bond is at outside centre even though he has played wing.

"We've been tossing between three positions, 10, 12 and 13 (for Rogers) and in terms of where we are at the moment we thought 12 was the best position for him," Jones said.

"He can play there without having to run the show completely and we can see whether he has the skills to play in one of the key receiving positions. You can see what (the Crusaders') Aaron Mauger has done at inside centre.

"When you have got someone who can run, pass and kick it gives your side an enormous amount of options on attack. I think it's just a crucial position in rugby now."

Waratahs Chris Whitaker and David Lyons have been named captain and vice-captain for the match at Parramatta Stadium, while the only other contentious choice was Red Sean Hardman ahead of New South Wales' Brendan Cannon at hooker.

Sailor was delighted to be picked, and knows that there is a chance for him to snatch a Wallaby jumper following a knee injury suffered by Reds wing partner Ben Tune in a club game.

"It does in a little way, but I just think there's so many players Eddie Jones could use," Sailor said. "I'm not saying that I couldn't do the job, but I was watching Andrew Walker last night thinking how good he is and obviously you've got the options with blokes like Scott Staniforth, Matty Burke and even Mat Rogers.

"But in saying that, I've got a chance to really rip in against Canada. At the moment I know I am probably a couple of players down the pecking order, but in saying that this weekend is going to be a big game for me.

"It's a little bit of a turning point in my career, just to know whether I can make the step up to international (level) at some time this year if I need to be called up. There's a lot of class players in the outside backs, but the thing is now I've got an opportunity to make a bit of a statement.

"So I've just got to make sure that I play well and do the basics and not put too much pressure on myself and just go out and enjoy."

Quizzed about the Crusaders' record-breaking unbeaten Super 12 season, Jones said while it had impressed him, it doesn't necessarily follow that the results will transfer to the international season.

"It sets up a good basis for the All Blacks, but we all know that provincial rugby and international rugby is a different kettle of fish," said Jones. "But what the All Blacks do know is they have a number of good players in good form."

Also chosen was Brumbies winger Andrew Walker, who has admitted that his past indiscretions when he has walked out on the Australian team were because of a problem with alcohol.

"I felt a lot better to come out in the open and talk to the boys about it and they've really stuck by me," said Walker. "I had to do something because I used to have a drink and then just keep going."

Walker played somewhat of a lone hand in the Super 12 final defeat to the Crusaders, scoring all of his team's points, but he says his early struggles this season had a bit to do with former partner Joe Roff's stint in France with Biarritz.

"We combine really well together and I used to read his style of play very well so it was a pretty different early on and it didn't really click for me. "But I've been pretty happy with my form over the last four weeks. I feel like it's all coming together," Walker said.

And Walker says he hasn't had any recent contact with Jones about his move to stop drinking, but hopes to get another chance with the Wallabies: "I'll just keep my fingers crossed and whatever comes up comes up."

Australia A: Andrew Walker (ACT), Wendell Sailor (Qld), Graham Bond (ACT), Mat Rogers (NSW), Scott Staniforth (NSW), Elton Flatley (Qld), Chris Whitaker (capt, NSW), Jone Tawake (NSW), David Lyons (NSW), Matt Cockbain (Qld), Daniel Heenan (Qld), Tom Bowman (NSW), Patricio Noriega (NSW), Sean Hardman (Qld), Nick Stiles (Qld). Res: Brendan Cannon (NSW), Glenn Panoho (Qld), Daniel Vickerman (ACT), David Croft (Qld), Tim Clark (NSW), Julian Huxley (ACT), Mark Bartholomeusz (ACT), Scott Fava (ACT).

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