Extended squad picked with one eye on 2019

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

In naming 11 potential debutants, Michael Cheika is casting an eye to the future.

Specifically, the 2019 World Cup.

This is far from the final squad that will challenge for the Rugby Championship crown but it does have the feel of a group that is building for something bigger and better in the years to come.

What this squad will do is allow Cheika and the other assistant coaches to determine who will be a factor in the near future and who still needs time to develop into a Test level player.

Of the potential debutants, here are the players Cheika will be keeping a close eye on in the lead up to the naming of the final squad.

Izaia Perese

Izaia Perese already has some Wallabies experience. Photo: Getty ImagesCheika took the power packed flyer on last year's Spring Tour and Perese has shown why in a breakout 2017.

His starts for the Reds prior to the World Rugby U20s Championship showed flashes of brilliance but they were inconsistent.

He also struggled, at times, with defensive reads and fell off a few too many first up tackles.

That has changed in the two starts after the June Tests, where he has been among the Reds best.

Whether he makes the final squad or will be left playing NRC remains to be seen but here's hoping his superb form continues, as it is a delight to watch.

Campbell Magnay

Another young, powerful outside back from Queensland.

Cheika will have to make an assessment on his future quick smart, as he is headed for Japan at the end of the season in a deal that may actually be two years - 12 months longer than what was initially reported.

He is the only player heading overseas that Cheika has picked, which is an indication of his talent.

His sheer physicality on both sides of the ball is what catches the eye but whether he can force his way into a Wallabies World Cup squad with just one Super Rugby season under his belt remains to be seen.

Izack Rodda

Rodda trained with the Wallabies when they were in Brisbane preparing for the Italy Test. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyLukhan Tui was a surprise selection in June but Rodda - Tui's partner in the Reds second row - being picked here will not raise an eyebrow for anyone that has watched him closely this season.

He has all the assets a world class second rower needs.

A huge 202cm, 119kg frame, clean lineout skills, consistently strong carries and bone rattling defence.

Add that package to a tireless work rate and you have a player that can produce at the highest level.

Jordan Uelese

Jordan Uelese was one of the players of the World Rugby U20s tournament. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Levan VerdzeuliBoth Cheika and Wallabies scrum doctor Mario Ledesma gave the Rebels hooker huge wraps in the June window and his form at the World Rugby U20s makes it clear to see why.

His lineout throwing is good without being great but every other facet of his game is already at a top notch level.

Uelese has immense scrummaging power but it's his carries at full flight which have him earmarked as a future Wallaby.

He has a huge frame for a hooker at 189cm and 122kg and he makes every bit of that count when carrying the ball.

He also adds an extra defensive breakdown presence, as world class hookers in the modern game tend to do very well.

He is yet to usurp James Hanson as Melbourne's top choice hooker but one wouldn't think that could be far off, given Hanson wasn't named in this squad.

Taniela Tupou

Gone is the one dimensional, flashy prop that arrived at Ballymore after his schoolboy highlights video went viral in 2014.

Nick Stiles has turned Tupou into a tighthead that scrummages well and does plenty of tough stuff at the furnace, without stunting his growth as a devastating ball runner.

He has not let go of the starting spot since he was afforded the chance against the Blues three weeks ago and if he continues to grow at this rate, one would think a Wallaby debut couldn't be too far away.

Billy Meakes

Billy Meakes has been a consistent performer for the Force. Photo: Getty ImagesAt 26, he's not nearly as young as the aforementioned players but he will still be well within his prime come 2019.

This is a reward for unwavering strong starts at inside centre for a vastly improved Force outfit.

Fits the Cheika mould in that he carries well and leads in defence but can also provide second playmaker cover.

May struggle to get a good look in, though, as Karmichael Hunt and Kurtley Beale will have first crack at the 12 jersey.