Qantas Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has announced a strong 32-man squad for the 2014 Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship.
The squad, minus those players participating in the Super Rugby Final, will assemble on Sunday 3 August to begin the Qantas Wallabies’ week-long Bush2Bledisloe regional road trip across Dubbo, Orange, Bathurst and Penrith.
Members of the Qantas Wallabies squad taking part in the Super Rugby Final will join the team in Bathurst on Wednesday 6 August.
“It’s extremely pleasing to know we will have one Australian province in the Super Rugby Final and I wish both the NSW Waratahs and ACT 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 32-man squad, captained by openside flanker Michael Hooper, boasts a combined total of 781 Test appearances and includes players from all five Super Rugby provinces – NSW Waratahs (11), ACT Brumbies (11), Queensland Reds (4), Western Force (4) and the Melbourne Rebels (2).
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 ACT Brumbies pair Ben Alexander and Joe Tomane. Both were unavailable for Test selection in June due to injury.
ACT Brumbies winger Henry Speight, who is the only uncapped member of the squad, will miss the opening three games of the Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship before becoming eligible to represent Australia from September 11.
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 16 August.
“We’ve come a long way as a group over the past 12 months and the consistency we’re 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 Castrol EDGE 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, it’s 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), flankers 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 Qantas 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.
In the lead-up to the Bledisloe Cup, the Qantas Wallabies will also embark on a five-day road trip through regional NSW.
The Bush2Bledisloe initiative is the brainchild of coach Ewen McKenzie and will bring passionate NSW Rugby supporters closer to the national team than ever before with a range of community activities planned during each stage of the tour.
Fans in Dubbo, Orange, Bathurst and Penrith will get a unique opportunity to meet their Qantas Wallabies heroes as part of open training and fan activity sessions, and will also get the chance to see and hold the prestigious Bledisloe Cup.
The Qantas Wallabies squad for the 2014 Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship is:
|Ben Alexander||ACT Brumbies||29||62|
|Pek Cowan||Western Force||28||7|
|Sekope Kepu||NSW Waratahs||28||41|
|Scott Sio||ACT Brumbies||22||5|
|James Slipper||Queensland Reds||25||52|
|Nathan Charles||Western Force||25||2|
|James Hanson||Queensland Reds||25||1|
|Tatafu Polota-Nau||NSW Waratahs||28||49|
|Sam Carter||ACT Brumbies||24||1|
|James Horwill||Queensland Reds||29||51|
|Rob Simmons||Queensland Reds||25||40|
|Will Skelton||NSW Waratahs||22||1|
|Scott Fardy||ACT Brumbies||30||13|
|Scott Higginbotham||Melbourne Rebels||27||24|
|Matt Hodgson||Western Force||33||6|
|Michael Hooper (c)||NSW Waratahs||22||31|
|Ben McCalman||Western Force||26||32|
|Wycliff Palu||NSW Waratahs||31||51|
|Luke Burgess||Melbourne Rebels||30||37|
|Nick Phipps||NSW Waratahs||25||17|
|Nic White||ACT Brumbies||24||13|
|Kurtley Beale||NSW Waratahs||25||42|
|Bernard Foley||NSW Waratahs||24||7|
|Tevita Kuridrani||ACT Brumbies||23||11|
|Christian Leali’ifano||ACT Brumbies||26||13|
|Matt Toomua||ACT Brumbies||24||13|
|Adam Ashley-Cooper||NSW Waratahs||30||94|
|Henry Speight||ACT Brumbies||26||Uncapped|
|Israel Folau||NSW Waratahs||25||18|
|Rob Horne||NSW Waratahs||24||16|
|Pat McCabe||ACT Brumbies||26||22|
|Joe Tomane||ACT Brumbies||24||9