In front of a packed gallery in the Qantas Hangar at Sydney Airport, Wallabies Head Coach Michael Cheika has announced his squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Comprising 17 forwards and 14 backs, and with over 1,200 Test caps between them, the Wallabies squad will be captained by Stephen Moore in his third consecutive Rugby World Cup.
2003 Rugby World Cup finalist Matt Giteau, Vice-Captain Adam Ashley-Cooper, Wycliff Palu and Drew Mitchell will all join Moore in their third Rugby World Cup campaign.
Sharing the Vice-Captaincy role alongside Ashley-Cooper will be Michael Hooper. The 24 year-old flanker will be one of thirteen Rugby World Cup debutants for the Wallabies, including dual international Israel Folau.
Toby Smith and Sean McMahon are the only players named in the squad who have not featured during the 2015 international season, with Cheika opting for a more balanced and versatile backrow and props group.
Cheika said it was the collective effort of his broader Wallabies playing group which has laid the platform for his chosen squad to lead Australia against the rest of the world.
“Firstly, I would like to thank all of the players who have contributed to the Wallabies Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup campaigns this season,” said Cheika.
“We’re become a really tight group and it was a very difficult process in picking only 31 players, but I know each player selected will travel to England with the full support of those team mates who won’t board the flight.
“Our primary focus throughout the Super Rugby competition, The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup was to select a balanced squad between youth, experience and form and this squad certainly delivers on this.
“It’s also important that we select a squad that will handle the tournament play and our draw in particular at the Rugby World Cup, as well as maintain a strong competition for places in the team.”
Since taking the reins of the Wallabies program in October 2014, Cheika has been pleased with the team’s progress however is adamant his charges will lift another gear for the Rugby World Cup.
“The first part of the year during the Super Rugby Season, we worked hard at building relationships and strong foundations, and during The Rugby Championship we wanted to continue to improve and play a brand of Rugby that Australia could be proud of and get every player contributing towards the outcome.
“It’s essential that we continue to improve over the next four weeks as a squad and we'll be working hard to make sure we deliver on the qualities we want people to see in the Wallabies team of 2015.”
The Wallabies will commence their preparations with a series of camps in Sydney, Indiana and Bath. An additional 10 players have been named to join the squad until the time the 31-man Rugby World Cup squad departs for England on September 13.
The first camp will be held this weekend in Sydney, which will include a public farewell event to provide fans with an opportunity to see the team off in person at Martin Place onThursday August 27, before the squad steps out for the 14th Annual John Eales Medal Gala Dinner later that evening.
The squad will then depart for the United States to set up camp at the historic University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
From there the Wallabies will cross the state border to Chicago to play their final match ahead of the Rugby World Cup against USA at Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears. The historic clash will be Australia’s first Test against the Eagles in over 40 years.
“We’ve selected a wider training squad including an extra 10 players who will train alongside the squad prior to our departure from the USA to England,” said Cheika.
“Like they’ve done all year, these players will play a huge role in the team’s preparation.”
“We have a great opportunity in the coming month to work hard and make some gains before we take on a very impressive USA outfit ahead of our opening World Cup match against Fiji.”
The Wallabies will play their opening match of Pool A against Fiji at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on September 23, followed by Uruguay at Villa Park, Birmingham on September 27.
The Wallabies will then take on England and Wales at Twickenham in London onOctober 3 and October 10, respectively. The two highest-ranked teams at the end of the pool stage will advance to the Quarter Finals.
31-Man Wallabies Squad for Rugby World Cup 2015
Stephen Moore - C (96 Tests)
Tatafu Polota-Nau (53 Tests)
Greg Holmes (17 Tests)
Sekope Kepu (56 Tests)
Scott Sio (9 Tests)*
James Slipper (66 Tests)
Toby Smith (uncapped)*
Kane Douglas (15 Tests)*
Dean Mumm (36 Tests)
Rob Simmons (52 Tests)
Will Skelton (11 Tests)*
Scott Fardy (24 Tests)*
Michael Hooper - VC (45 Tests)*
Ben McCalman (40 Tests)
Sean McMahon (3 Tests)*
Wycliff Palu (55 Tests)
David Pocock (50 Tests)
Will Genia (59 Tests)
Nick Phipps (31 Tests)
Quade Cooper (55 Tests)
Bernard Foley (17 Tests)*
Kurtley Beale (52 Tests)
Matt Giteau (95 Tests)
Matt Toomua (25 Tests)*
Adam Ashley-Cooper - VC (108 Tests)
Israel Folau (33 Tests)*
Rob Horne (26 Tests)
Drew Mitchell (65 Tests)
Henry Speight (3 Tests)*
Joe Tomane (15 Tests)*
Tevita Kuridrani (24 Tests)*
*Uncapped at a Rugby World Cup
Extended Wallabies Squad for USA Eagles Test at Soldier Field, Chicago onSeptember 5
Sam Carter, David Dennis, Tetera Faulkner, James Hanson, Scott Higginbotham, James Horwill, Samu Kerevi, Christian Lealiifano, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Nic White