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The Qantas Wallabies have finalised a 32-man playing squad for their five-Test Spring Tour of the United Kingdom and Europe and for next week’s final Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks in New Zealand.
The squad consists of 26 of the 28 players which recently toured South Africa and Argentina as part of the Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship, with front-rower Albert Anae and winger Peter Betham the unlucky omissions following the return of NSW Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and Western Force outside back Nick Cummins.
Polota-Nau (hamstring) and Cummins (hand) will continue to rehabilitate their injuries during the upcoming fortnight before once again being fit and available for selection throughout the Spring Tour.
Backrower Scott Fardy will also miss the upcoming Test against the All Blacks with an eye injury he sustained in Australia’s 54-17 victory against Argentina before returning to action at the beginning of the Spring Tour.
Also added to the group are three position specialists in tighthead prop Paddy Ryan, openside flanker Liam Gill and scrumhalf Nick Phipps, along with goal-kicking ace Mike Harris.
Polota-Nau, Cummins, Ryan, Gill, Phipps and Harris were all members of Qantas Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie’s inaugural 40-man Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship squad selected July.
“We recognise we are going over to play some very experienced and talented teams in the UK following our Test against the All Blacks,” McKenzie said.
“As a result, we’ve selected a group that contains a strong mix of veterans but also 10 players, almost a third of the squad, who have only made their Test debuts this season.
“The reality is that the players who started their Test careers this year are only just beginning to accrue experience, so the challenges associated with a Spring Tour will be massive for them in terms of their overall development.
“Of the additions, they’ve all been around the Qantas Wallabies before at some level.
“Most are also specialists in their position, which is important due to the nature of the Spring Tour, where we are on the other side of the world for five weeks.”
McKenzie said he expected the experience of Polota-Nau, a veteran of 44 Tests, to benefit the squad throughout the Spring Tour.
“Tatafu hasn’t had much of an opportunity due to injury over the past six months but we’re picking him on reputation. He is also an experienced scrummager, which will be valuable in the UK,” he said.
“We’ll have a good look at him next week and see where he is up to, but he was enthusiastic when I spoke with him. He’ll need all of his experience to push his way back into contention although having a guy with his background will strengthen the group.”
All 32 players will assemble in Sydney on Sunday before a narrowed down playing group of 24 is selected to travel to New Zealand next Wednesday ahead of the Qantas Wallabies third Test of 2013 against the All Blacks in Dunedin.
The entire 32-man squad will then re-assemble in Sydney the following week before flying to the United Kingdom on Friday 25 October for their Grand Slam Tour and matches against England, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
“The decision to choose 32 players now just made sense. We’ve only got a week’s lead-in once we fly to England on the other side of the world, so anything we can do now to expedite the training process is important,” McKenzie said.
“Everyone will come together to prepare for the All Blacks, but it’s also a chance for the extra guys to come in and get a handle on what we are doing. They were all with us at the start of our campaign, so we expect they will be able to catch-up quite quickly.
“We’ll get a head start now on the knowledge part, so that when we get on the plane to the UK we are already tuned-up.”
A number of regular and/or 2013 Qantas Wallabies players were not considered for selection due to the injury, including:
Kurtley Beale (shoulder); Anthony Fainga’a (shoulder); Kyle Goodwin (shoulder); James Hanson (neck); Scott Higginbotham (shoulder); Pat McCabe (neck); Hugh McMeniman (shoulder); Jesse Mogg (shoulder); Wycliff Palu (knee); David Pocock (knee); Hugh Pyle (shoulder); Jake Schatz (knee).
The Qantas Wallabies 32-man squad for the 2013 Spring Tour and third Bledisloe Cup Test in Dunedin is:
James Horwill ©
The Qantas Wallabies 2013 Spring Tour schedule is:
Twickenham Stadium, London
Stadio Olimpico, Turin
Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff