There were plenty of surprises in the wallabies squad announced on Thursday but who are the biggest shocks in the squad or the most unlucky to be left out.
Michael Cheika has picked players from across the globe but it’s one from our own backyard that provided the biggest surprise for Wallabies fans. Powell said after the announcement he hadn’t even met Michael Cheika and wasn’t involved in any of the previous morning after meets. With a desperate need for some depth at scrumhalf, Cheika has thrown caution to the wind to give Powell a preview of the Test environment, after just seven Super Rugby games. Hard to see him playing any games but that sneak peek will be invaluable for the 22-year-old.
Joe Powell says he had no indication he was in line for Wallaby selection and hasn't even met coach Michael Cheika.— Tim Gavel (@TimGavel) May 26, 2016
He’s a former Wallabies captain but after missing the World Cup squad in 2015, it looked like he might be out of the test conversation for a while. Of all the overseas-based players thrown into the pre-announcement speculation, Horwill’s was one few really took seriously. He had indicated a desire to work his way back into the Wallabies fold and it seems he has done enough for Michael Cheika. Will bring leadership as well as the mongrel Cheika loves in his players.
He’s spent most of the season injured and he hasn’t played for the Wallabies since the British and Irish Lions series of 2013, so it’s fair to say Mike Harris wasn’t part of many people’s crystal ball predictions. His versatility in the backline, though, is almost Kurtley Beale-esque, with his ability to play almost anywhere in attack. Harris has experience at international level and is reliable, something that is handy to have in a Test squad.
News of his looming return to Queensland has been circulating in recent weeks but Leroy Houston is still a name few would probably know all that well. A cult figure in Bath, the lure of a Wallabies debut 11 years after being brought into his first Test squad, was enough to bring him home. His aggression and physicality is just what Cheika likes in his squad members and it will put some heat on an already super competitive backrow spot.
If there’s any area the Wallabies are not lacking depth it’s the back row and Liam Gill has felt the brunt of that in recent seasons, consistently left out of the squad in a queue behind Michael Hooper and David Pocock for the openside spot. Based on his form, he certainly deserves it but that hasn’t worked in his favour in the past. Could be his last chance to add to his Test tally, with a looming move to France.
The unlucky ones
Nic Stirzaker has to be the most glaring omission of the 39-man squad. Stirzaker has long been touted as the next in line for a Test scrumhalf spot and was part of the Wallabies morning after meets this year. The 24-year-old had a frustrating start to the year and his form has been mixed for the Rebels since then. After an outstanding 2015, he just hasn’t quite matched that level. That’s not entirely his fault but it has probably cost him the third halfback spot in the squad.
Jones missed out on the Wallabies Rugby World Cup squad and earlier this year signed a two-year deal with French club Bordeaux from 2017. Jones has been one of the Rebels most consistent performers and has become one of the leaders of the club of late. The inclusion of James Horwill from the UK hurt Jones’ chances of adding to his three Test caps, but could be just a phone call away if injury strikes.
Hodge was tipped for a possible utility role, one that teammate Mike Harris looks set to fill now, after a superb debut season. The 21-year-old has seven tries to his name in Super Rugby, despite missing a month of games with a quad injury. He has covered every backline position outside scrumhalf, but probably just needs more time.
Another hard-working Rebels lock overlooked. Timani has been strong in combination with Jones, also making a cameo in the back row earlier this season. Definitely holds Wallabies ambitions, but for now needs to focus on making himself a lock who is invaluable for the Rebels.
Robertson has been a revelation at tighthead for the Waratahs this season. The youngster helped set their scrum straight after a wonky start to 2016. With a lack of outstanding tightheads really putting their hand up during Super Rugby, Robertson looked a sneaky outside chance for the Test squad. With Sekope Kepu returning and Toby Smith having the ability to play both sides of the scrum, Robertson missed out. There’s still time for him, but it’s just not now.