Horwill back as Cheika springs surprises for England series
SYDNEY – Australia coach Michael Cheika sprung a number of surprises in his 39-man training squad for the next month’s three-test series against England on Thursday, recalling former captain James Horwill and including 10 uncapped players.
Lock Horwill, who missed out on the World Cup squad last year, was one of four overseas-based players included along with uncapped loose forward Leroy Houston, stalwart tighthead prop Sekope Kepu and hulking winger Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Houston and Naiyaravoro were simultaneously announced to have signed for the Queensland Reds and New South Wales Waratahs respectively, while Kepu and Horwill are both eligible under the “Giteau Rule” having already won 60 or more caps for Australia.
Among the uncapped players were Fiji-born centre Samu Kerevi, who is considered by some pundits as the answer to Australia’s lack of fit centres, and former rugby league international Karmichael Hunt, who plays at fullback.
Scrumhalf Nick Frisby, who has been in fine form for the Queensland Reds, was an expected inclusion but ACT Brumbies back-up halfback Joe Powell, who has played just seven Super Rugby matches, was a major surprise.
Also unexpected was a call-up for Reds winger Eto Nabuli with other uncapped players being Western Force fullback Dane Haylett-Petty and lock Adam Coleman as well as ACT Brumbies prop Allan Alaalatoa and second row Rory Arnold.
Apart from inside centres Kurtley Beale and Matt Toomua, who are injured, and incumbent number 12 Matt Giteau, who is involved in the French playoffs with Toulon, the squad retains the nucleus of the side which reached the final of the World Cup last year.
After a training camp on the Sunshine Coast, Cheika will winnow the squad down to 30 players for each test, the first of which takes place in Brisbane on June 11.
“We’ve been working with an initial squad of 60 players we identified, which has been reduced to 39 for this camp,” he said in a statement.
“Our first week in camp will target a high intensity training attitude, building on combinations within that environment. We want to build on the identity we’ve worked hard on establishing over the past 18 months.”
After the first test at Lang Park, the Wallabies will face England in matches in Melbourne and Sydney on the following weekends.
Backs – Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Nick Frisby, Mike Harris, Dane Haylett-Petty, Rob Horne, Karmichael Hunt, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Luke Morahan, Eto Nabuli, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell.
Forwards – Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Sam Carter, Adam Coleman, Scott Fardy, Liam Gill, James Hanson, Greg Holmes, Michael Hooper, James Horwill, Leroy Houston, Sekope Kepu, Ben McCalman, Sean McMahon, Stephen Moore, Dean Mumm, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Will Skelton, James Slipper, Toby Smith. -Reuters