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The Qantas Wallabies have announced a strong 28-man touring squad for the next stage of their Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship campaign in South Africa and Argentina.
The return of Australian captain James Horwill from a left hamstring strain will strengthen a forward pack which also sees experienced NSW Waratahs prop Benn Robinson regain selection.
Robinson, who was a member of Australia’s initial 40-man extending training squad in August, has been re-called by coach Ewen McKenzie following a series of impressive performances for Shute Shield finalist Eastwood over the past month.
“James has been working hard in rehab and is getting closer to a return while Benn has also impressed in club Rugby to earn himself another chance,” McKenzie said.
“The scrums have been inconsistent across all the Tests so far and we are now about to embark on a tough two-game road tour.
“We want to improve this area of our game and when you combine the Tests played between Ben and James we are bringing in another 99 games of experience up front.
“That’s invaluable when you are playing in hostile environments away from home.”
Queensland Reds front-rower Albert Anae, who is currently playing for Bay of Plenty in New Zealand’s ITM Cup, has been added as the third hooker and can cover prop, while in the backs Joe Tomane returns from a minor shoulder injury and will join exciting 19-year-old winger and centre Chris Feauai-Sautia in the squad.
Their inclusion comes at an important time for the Qantas Wallabies with outside backs Nick Cummins and Jesse Mogg both unavailable through injury.
Cummins will miss up to a month as he recovers from the broken hand he sustained in Australia’s gutsy 14-13 victory over Argentina at the weekend, while Mogg will undergo a complete shoulder construction and will be sidelined for six months.
Mogg has been battling a persistent shoulder issue throughout 2013 and in consultation with medical staff it was decided that the best outcome for him would be to undergo surgery now to ensure he would able to take part in next year’s Super Rugby competition and be fully fit for the 2014 Castrol EDGE June Test Series.
Waratahs duo Sitaleki Timani and Dave Dennis maintain their place within the group after being called into the Qantas Wallabies setup at the beginning of their preparations in Perth last week.
Flanker Liam Gill and prop Scott Sio are the unlucky omissions but will remain on standby for a squad that will now target back-to-back Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship successes when they take on the Springboks on Saturday 28 September.
“South Africa and Argentina are always brutal games, so you need to give an edge to physicality in your selections,” McKenzie said.
“You need to fight fire with fire to some extent and it’s pretty clear that we’ve brought in added size as well as more experience for these next two games.”
McKenzie said the tour of South Africa and Argentina would be important in terms of building confidence and a winning mentality within the group.
“I don’t think anyone is going to back us to win these next two games but there is a terrific opportunity to continue to improve and surprise a few people,” he said.
“There is a good vibe in the group at the moment with some emerging confidence and experience.
“We’ll go over there with a strong mindset, the right attitude and with a really good chance to finish positively in the competition.”
Australia has won two of its last three Tests in South Africa but has not won in Cape Town since 1992 when the first clash between the two nations since South Africa’s return following the end of apartheid resulted in a 26-3 win to the Qantas Wallabies.
South Africa has won all four matches played at the foot of Table Mountain since that time since.
The Qantas Wallabies 28-man Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship squad to play South Africa in Cape Town and Argentina in Rosario is:
James Horwill (c)