Combined Country coach Cam Blades has unveiled his preliminary 43-man squad today, 18 days out from his sides clash against the Lions in Newcastle.
A total of 18 current Super Rugby players have been named in the squad alongside seven NSW Country players, seven Queensland Country players and 11 Premier Club Rugby players, seven of which hail from the Shute Shield competition.
Blades said he and his coaching staff, which includes NSW Country Coach Col Jeffs, Queensland Country coach Garrick Morgan and Todd Louden, would now begin the process of putting together their final match day squad.
“Col, Garrick, Todd and myself have worked hard to get to this point, but over the next week we’ll tackle the hardest part of selection – reducing 43 to just 23,” Blades said.
“The final make-up of the side will rely on a number of factors.
“We’ll look at form and fitness and in the case of the Super Rugby players we’ll be reliant upon their franchises agreeing to release them for this match.
“We’ve done a lot of work with ARU and the Super Rugby sides over the last few months and we are aware that some of the guys that would be considered may ultimately not be available.
“There are still Super Rugby matches occurring right up until the Sunday before our match, so we completely understand if a Franchise requires their players to be available for their campaign.
“Our goal is to put the strongest 23-man squad together to face the Lions and ultimately we’d like as many of the Super Rugby players named today to be able to be considered for final selection.
“It is an ongoing process and we’ll continue to work closely with the Super Rugby sides.”
The final match-night 23 will be announced on Friday 31 May, with the squad coming into camp in Newcastle on Thursday 6 June.
Tickets to the highly anticipated DHL Australia 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour match between Combined Country and the Lions are still available from proticket.com.au.
A complete list of the 43 members of the Combined Country Squad is here.