The Wallabies have today announced eight uncapped players in new coach Ewen McKenzie’s inaugural 30-man squad for The Rugby Championship.
The final squad has been narrowed down following a five-day training camp in Sydney with McKenzie and his team to now intensify their preparations ahead of the Qantas Wallabies opening Test match against New Zealand at ANZ Stadium on Saturday 17 August.
The inclusion of eight uncapped representatives ensures there will be a new look Qantas Wallabies line-up to face the All Blacks next weekend, where they will begin their pursuit of winning the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.
Among the potential debutants are flyhalves Matt Toomua and Bernard Foley, backrowers Scott Fardy and Jake Schatz, prop Scott Sio, hooker Albert Anae, centre Tevita Kuridrani and scrumhalf Nic White.
“I was really impressed with how each individual responded to the competitiveness of the opening week of camp and I’m pleased to say that the player’s attitude and uptake of our program was at a very high level,” McKenzie said.
“It’s unfortunate that a number of good players missed out although this isn’t necessarily a case of poor performance but rather a reflection of some of the quality we have coming through in Australian Rugby right now.
“For the moment though, we’ve narrowed our way down to a group of players we believe are capable of getting the job done against the All Blacks in just over a week.
“That doesn’t mean the players chosen won’t change in the future and that those who have missed out this time will be forgotten.”
The 30-man squad, which will be captained by veteran lock James Horwill, boasts a combined total of 575 Test appearances and includes players from all five Super Rugby provinces - ACT Brumbies (11), Queensland Reds (9), NSW Waratahs (6), Western Force (3) and the Melbourne Rebels (1).
It also has an average age of just under 25-years-old with hooker Stephen Moore the only representative 30 years or above.
Now that the squad has been finalised, McKenzie said it would be important to get on with the business of beating the All Blacks.
“There has understandably been a large amount of content to get through on the field but we’ve also been focusing on the mental side and ensuring we have the right mindset going into the game,” he said.
“The reality is not one player in the current squad has lifted up the Bledisloe Cup before, but if they are good enough over seven days and two matches then this will change.
“That’s an exciting challenge and one the group must get their minds around quickly if we are going to be successful.”
McKenzie also thanked Castrol EDGE for their ongoing support of the Rugby Championship after they unveiled a new award to be presented to the Qantas Wallabies player deemed to be the Castrol EDGE Strongest Performer across the Championship’s six-Tests.
“There is no doubt we are looking to raise the bar in terms of performance and the Castrol EDGE Strongest Performer of the Series Award will provide great recognition for the player deemed to have given his all across our campaign.”
Voted on a 3-2-1 basis by Fairfax Media’s Rugby correspondents after each Test of the Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship, the winner will be announced and presented with the specially struck trophy following the Qantas Wallabies return from Argentina.
Tickets for the Qantas Wallabies clash against the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on Saturday 17 August are on sale now via www.ticketek.com.au.
Wallabies squad: Albert Anae, Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Quade Cooper, Nick Cummins, Kane Douglas, Saia Faingaa, Scott Fardy, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Liam Gill, Michael Hooper, James Horwill (c), Sekope Kepu, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman, Jesse Mogg, Stephen Moore, Ben Mowen, James O'Connor, Jake Schatz, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White.