Cheika's changing of the guard in June squad

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has turned his sights to 2019, culling a handful of established players for the next generation in his June Series squads.

Dean Mumm, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Kane Douglas, Rob Horne and Will Skelton have all been omitted from Cheika’s first 2017 squad, though it wasn't an easy decision for the third-year national coach.

Eight potential debutants have been named in the June squad, with Ned Hanigan, Marika Koroibete, Richard Hardwick, Joe Powell, Jack Dempsey, Eto Nabuli, Lukhan Tui and Karmichael Hunt in the mix.

He batted away suggestions, though, that this was an experimental group, that he might not have taken risks on in a Bledisloe.

“This is a strategy we want to pursue,” he said.

“We’ve got to back our young players that are coming through and are putting form on the board.

Richard Hardwick has impressed Michael Cheika. Photo: Getty Images“That doesn’t mean - you can see some of our experienced players are there as well but young players are putting their hand up and showing that they want to be a part of it.”

While many of the most high-profile omissions are heading overseas or retiring, Cheika said the future had little impact on that.

“I said to those guys when they decided to choose a departure that we’re not here to bite off our nose despite our face," he said.

“Our position is more like if we thought we were going to pick one of those guys in the starting team, then we’ll bring them in.

“Around the squad as a whole, it’s an opportunity then to get a taste for some younger guys who will be here in ‘18 and ‘19 and who we think will benefit from being in and around the squad and maybe getting game time.

“I think that’s a pretty sound philosophy. We’re looking at form - Would that player be picked in the starting test team right now? - and decide from there.”

Reds second rower Tui is the biggest surprise in a 34-man squad, one of only two players to be included without having been involved in any Wallabies camps this year, along with Queensland teammate Scott Higginbotham.

Lukhan Tui is the biggest squad surprise. Photo: Getty Images“Lukhan, I think he wouldn’t have been a player on our radar earlier in the year,” Cheika said.

“He’s just shown through his performance on field - raw, but  I think one of the big differentiating factors is the impact he’s making in games.”

Higginbotham is in his first Wallabies setup since the 2015 Rugby Championship, with Super Rugby form forcing Cheika’s hand.

Simmons has long been a Test mainstay, though had a mixed 2016, and Cheika said he simply needed to see more grunt from the Reds lock, but was by no means out of contention going forward.

“He could be one of the best locks going around when he brings that type of impact and aggression top the game  that I know he can do, when he gets angry.

“He’s brought it inconsistently, and he’s mature enough now to bring it consistently.”


Cheika’s selection signals a major changing of the guard, with just 10 players in the squad who featured in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, and 12 from the Test mentor’s first squad as Wallabies coach in 2014.

Waratahs backrower Jack Dempsey is the only one of four 2016 Spring Tour development players to be in the squad, despite missing 10 weeks with a foot injury, and playing just half an hour of club rugby on his return last weekend.

Scott Sio has been named despite being unavailable for the first Test through injury, while Cheika expects Dane Haylett-Petty and Nick Phipps to be fit to play come June 10.

The Wallabies play their first June Test in Melbourne against Fiji on June 10. Tickets available here.

SQUAD

Wallabies 34-man squad for June Series

Forwards

Allan Alaalatoa, 9 Tests, ACT Brumbies

Rory Arnold, 9 Tests, ACT Brumbies

Adam Coleman, 9 Tests, Western Force

Sam Carter, 13 Tests, ACT Brumbies

Jack Dempsey*, NSW Waratahs

Ned Hanigan*, NSW Waratahs

Richard Hardwick*, Western Force

Scott Higginbotham, 32 Tests, Queensland Reds

Michael Hooper, 65 Tests, NSW Waratahs

Sekope Kepu, 77 Tests, NSW Waratahs

Tolu Latu, 4 Tests, NSW Waratahs

Stephen Moore (c), 117 Tests, Queensland Reds

Tatafu Polota-Nau, 68 Tests, Western Force

Tom Robertson, 7 Tests, NSW Waratahs

Scott Sio, 30 Tests, ACT Brumbies

Toby Smith, 4 Tests, Melbourne Rebels

Lopeti Timani, 6 Tests, Melbourne Rebels

Lukhan Tui*, Queensland Reds


Backs

Quade Cooper, 67 Tests, Queensland Reds

Israel Folau, 52 Tests, NSW Waratahs

Bernard Foley, 42 Tests, NSW Waratahs

Will Genia, 75 Tests, Stade Francais

Kyle Godwin, 1 Test, ACT Brumbies

Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Tests, Western Force

Reece Hodge, 10 Tests, Melbourne Rebels

Karmichael Hunt*, Queensland Reds

Samu Kerevi, 8 Tests, Queensland Reds

Marika Koroibete*, Melbourne Rebels

Tevita Kuridrani, 45 Tests, ACT Brumbies

Eto Nabuli*, Queensland Reds

Sefa Naivalu, 6 Tests, Melbourne Rebels

Nick Phipps, 52 Tests, NSW Waratahs

Joe Powell*, ACT Brumbies

Henry Speight, 11 Tests, ACT Brumbies

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