Speight gets his Wallaby call
Wed, 23 Jul 2014 06:54
It has been captivating to follow their respective journeys
Fijian-born wing Henry Speight has been included an Australia squad for the Rugby Championship against New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.
Coach Ewen McKenzie named Luke Burgess in his 32-man squad Wednesday in place of scrumhalf Will Genia, who may still be recalled later in the series if he recovers from his ankle injury.
Genia's Reds teammate, flyhalf Quade Cooper, was also omitted as he recuperates from hip and shoulder surgeries, while wing Joe Tomane replaces Nick Cummins, who has left to play in Japan.
Speight won't be eligible to play for the Wallabies until September 11, which will end his long wait to able to play a Test for his adopted country.
The squad, captained by Michael Hooper, includes 25 players who featured in Australia's 3-0 sweep of France last month.
The squad, minus those players participating in the Super Rugby Final, will assemble on Sunday, August 3, to begin the Wallabies week-long Bush2Bledisloe regional road trip across Dubbo, Orange, Bathurst and Penrith.
Members of the Wallabies squad taking part in the Super Rugby Final will join the team in Bathurst on Wednesday', August 6.
"Its extremely pleasing to know we will have one Australian 'franchise in the Super Rugby Final and I wish both the Waratahs and Brumbies the best of luck for their clash on Saturday," McKenzie said.
"It has been captivating to follow their respective journeys throughout 2014 and I'm confident their efforts - along with those of the Force, Rebels and Reds - will have a positive influence when the Test season begins."
The squad boasts a combined total of 781 Test appearances and includes players from all five Super Rugby franchises - Waratahs (11), Brumbies (11), Reds (four), Force (four) and the Melbourne Rebels (two).
It also includes 25 players who earned at least one Test cap during the recent series clean sweep over France, along with a further five players who took part as squad members during the three-game campaign.
The only two players in the current squad not involved at any point during the France Series were Brumbies pair Ben Alexander and Joe Tomane.
Both were unavailable for Test selection in June due to injury.
McKenzie said the familiarity of the squad would be beneficial ahead of the opening Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday, August 16.
"We've come a long way as a group over the past 12 months and the consistency were now applying across selections, high-performance behaviours and our playing style is a positive sign that we are heading in the right direction," he said.
"The challenge for us now is to continue this consistency throughout the Rugby Championship, beginning with a Bledisloe Cup clash against New Zealand.
"We understand a great deal of attention going into the match will be around the All Blacks and their motivation to create a new piece of history by winning a world-record 18 consecutive games.
"For us, its no secret that our desire to win back the Bledisloe Cup grows every year, but if our attention isn't focused on the right areas during our preparations then it will be easy to get caught looking too far ahead.
"We recognise that and will have a clear understanding of how we are going to approach and prepare for the opening game."
Players who have not been considered for selection due to injury include, but is not limited to, hooker Stephen Moore (knee), flanks David Pocock (knee) and Dave Dennis (knee), scrumhalf Will Genia (ankle), flyhalf Quade Cooper (shoulder), centre Kyle Godwin (knee) and outside back Chris Feauai-Sautia (shoulder).
The Wallabies are currently enjoying a winning streak of their own with their seven consecutive victories an accomplishment last achieved by an Australian team in 1999/2000.
Australian squad: Ben Alexander, Pek Cowan, Sekope Kepu, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Nathan Charles, James Hanson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sam Carter, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Scott Fardy, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, Michael Hooper (captain), Ben McCalman, Wycliff Palu, Luke Burgess, Nick Phipps, Nic White, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Matt Toomua, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Henry Speight, Israel Folau, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe, Joe Tomane.
Saturday, August16: v New Zealand, Sydney
Saturday, August 23: v New Zealand, Auckland
Saturday, September 6: v South Africa, Perth
Saturday, September 13: v Argentina, Gold Coast
Saturday, September 27 (Sunday, September 28 AEST): v South Africa, Cape Town
Saturday, October 4 (Sunday, October 5 AEST): v Argentina, Mendoza
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