ACT Brumbies back row Pete Samu is the standout absentee from Michael Cheika’s Wallabies squad — which features five uncapped players — to face Ireland in the forthcoming June Test series
New Zealand Rugby has not released Samu for selection given he also qualifies for New Zealand via residency, leaving Cheika to explain that he can’t yet pick a player he was keen to involve as soon as possible.
“I’ve been told at this point I can’t select him,” Cheika said. “There is a spot for him there. It’s in other’s hands. I’m not really involved in that part of it. I’m hoping there will be some more clarity about that tomorrow [Thursday].”
Negotiations are ongoing with the NZR, with Rugby Australia still hopeful Samu will be eligible before the first Test.
Uncapped Jack Maddocks, Tom Banks, Folau Fainga’a, Caleb Timu and Brandon Paenga-Amosa all feature among a group that sees flanker Michael Hooper named as captain.
The Wallabies face Ireland in Brisbane on June 9, followed by a June 16 clash in Melbourne and then Sydney on June 23.
The Sydney-based Waratahs provide the biggest single representation with 10 players, while Cheika has also named a batch of seasoned international campaigners in the likes of Hooper, David Pocock, Israel Folau, Will Genia and Bernard Foley.
Wingers Henry Speight and Taqele Naiyaravoro are other notable omissions from the Australian squad, as well as hooker Damien Fitzpatrick and second-rower Kane Douglas. Naiyaravoro has scored 10 tries in as many matches for the Waratahs this year.
“It is one of the most competitive positions we have in the squad,” Cheika said. “Taqele has been in good form.
“If you look at other players who have missed out there – Izaia Perese, Henry Speight, Cam Clark – it was just really tight.
Twenty-one-year old Maddocks is a utility back who has eight tries for the Rebels.
“Maddocks has had a really good year,” Cheika said. “He’s had a couple of up and down games. He’s got a lot of good qualities — good skill, high work-rate. Still got a lot to learn but I think he’s deserved his opportunity in the full squad. He’s a real talent.”
Cheika confirmed that James Slipper, banned for testing positive for cocaine on two occasions, would not have been considered anyway.
“He was not involved,” Cheika said. “We had pretty strong group to go with Tom Robertson, Scotty Sio, Sekope Kepu, Taniela Tupou, Allan Alaalatoa. We’ve got a lot of guys we’ve been using.”
It will be the first time that Australia and Ireland have met in a three-Test series. Ireland have not beaten the Wallabies in Australia since 1979 but versatile back Reece Hodge believes Ireland are now the form team in the world. “They’ve had some great success for their backline throughout the Six Nations and there are really young, exciting guys in that backline such as Garry Ringrose,” Hodge said.
“Obviously [Jacob] Stockdale won the Six Nations player of the tournament and then there are guys like [Johnny] Sexton who are all class. They have threats right across the backline and a really strong forward pack.
“It’s going to be a massive test — they’re probably the form team in the world at the moment so I’m looking forward to it.”
Australia backs: T Banks, K Beale, I Folau, B Foley, W Genia, D Haylett-Petty, R Hodge, S Kerevi, M Koroibete, T Kuridrani, J Maddocks, S Naivalu, N Phipps, J Powell, C Rona.
Forwards: A Alaalatoa, R Arnold, A Coleman, F Fainga’a, N Hanigan, M Hooper (capt), S Kepu, B Paenga-Amosa, D Pocock, T Robertson, R Simmons, S Sio, I Rodda, C Timu, L Tui, T Tupou, J Uelese.
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