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Australian Rugby Union today launched The Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship with the announcement of an extended 40-man Qantas Wallabies training squad.
The selected players will assemble for a five-day training camp in Sydney on Monday 5 August , giving new Qantas Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie an opportunity to assess his options before announcing a final squad of up to 30 players on Friday 9 August.
McKenzie has deliberately cast a wide net in selecting his inaugural 40-man training squad with 10 uncapped players included for the opening week of camp.
They will join an experienced core of players who will all be vying for selection in Australia’s opening Bledisloe Cup and Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday 17 August.
“At this stage it’s important that as many players as possible gain exposure to our program and that everyone is receiving an opportunity to push their case for selection before we narrow down our squad,” McKenzie said.
“The first five days will be invaluable in this respect as there are some players I know very well and others that I’m interested in learning more about.
“What I do know though, as is evidenced by the fact that we’ve chosen 10 uncapped players for the training camp, is that Australian Rugby does have a lot of depth and talent coming through, now and for the future.
“We’ve taken that very much into consideration with our selections and believe this squad is capable of having success right now, while also expediting the development process for some of the younger guys who we see as having the potential to represent Australia in a few years.”
Long-serving lock James Horwill will captain the Qantas Wallabies squad, which also includes 21 players who earned at least one cap during Australia’s recent three-game Test series against the British & Irish Lions.
Of the omissions from the British & Irish Lions series, Kurtley Beale and Wycliff Palu have not been considered for selection due to injury, joining Qantas Wallabies regulars David Pocock, Digby Ioane, Pat McCabe and Scott Higginbotham on the sideline.
Beale is set to undergo surgery on his shoulder later this week and will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2013 season, while Palu will be unavailable during the early stages of Australia’s campaign as he continues rehabilitation from surgery to repair damaged meniscus in a knee.
Reds’ winger Rod Davies, Western Force centre Kyle Godwin and Waratahs’ wingers Cam Crawford are also unavailable for selection due to injury.
In finalising his initial 40-man squad, McKenzie has also given priority to players who are committed to Australian Rugby in 2014 and beyond, with many tough selection decisions favouring those players available for Qantas Wallabies selection in years to come.
“We’ve assessed each case on its own merits, but it’s important that we are, where possible, making investments in players that are going to provide value for Australian Rugby over the next few seasons,” McKenzie said.
“That was definitely a major consideration in selecting this training squad.
“With new systems to install, we’ve also put a lot of weight on those players who are healthy and able to contribute fully in training in the lead-up to our opening two Tests.
“There is only a very short period before our first match, so it’s paramount that the players are in a strong position mentally and physically to be investing all their time now into understanding what we are trying to achieve.
“We’re also trying to develop strong combinations and competition across all positions and you can only do that by having players who are available to train and compete.”
The Qantas Wallabies will have just a fortnight to prepare for their opening game against the All Blacks, where a victory could prove decisive in Australia’s quest to win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.
The following week in Wellington an opportunity also exists for the Qantas Wallabies to snap a 12-year losing drought against the All Blacks in New Zealand, with Australia’s last victory coming at Dunedin in 2001.
“It’s always going to be challenging when you come up against the number one team in the world, but it also gives you the greatest opportunity to make a statement,” McKenzie said.
“If we want to change where we are in the Rugby landscape, this is a great place to start. Effectively, the Bledisloe Cup is there for the taking if we are good enough over two weekends.
“We’ll have some different thoughts and ideas about how we go about it. The reality is we’ve got to challenge ourselves to do things differently otherwise the outcomes will remain the same.
“We’ll be able to go into that first game in our own backyard, in front of a full house, with some element of surprise. I don’t think that’s a bad situation.”
Tickets for the Qantas Wallabies clash against the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on Saturday 17 August are on sale now via www.ticketek.com.au
The Qantas Wallabies 40-man training squad to assemble in Sydney on 5 August ahead of The Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship is:
Tatafu Polota Nau
THE CASTROL EDGE RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DRAW
Saturday 17 August, 2013
ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Saturday 7 September, 2013
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Saturday 14 September, 2013
Patersons Stadium, Perth
THE COMPLETE RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DRAW
(Sunday 18 August, 2013 AEDT)
Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Saturday 24 August, 2013
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Saturday 24 August, 2013 (Sunday 25 August, 2013 AEDT)
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
Saturday 31 August, 2013
Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Eden Park, Auckland
Saturday 21 September, 2013
Saturday 28 September, 2013
(Sunday 29 September, 2013 AEDT)
DHL Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Estadio Ciudad de La Plata, La Plata
Saturday 5 October, 2013
(Sunday 6 October, 2013 AEDT)
Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, Rosario
THIRD AND FINAL BLEDISLOE CUP TEST
Saturday 19 October, 2013
Dunedin, New Zealand