Blake bolts into Wallabies' Spring Tour squad

International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

Brumbies lock Blake Enever has bolted onto the Wallabies Spring Tour, stepping through the door opened by a swathe of injuries.

Enever and Force lock Matt Philip are two new second-row faces in the 32-man squad, which also includes development players Jack Maddocks and Liam Wright.

Philip was one of the standouts in Super Rugby, mentioned as an outside chance for Test opportunities through the year, but Enever's selection is the biggest shock.

A knee injury for Rory Arnold, initially thought to be a cork, and shoulder surgery for Izack Rodda have whittled away Australia's second row options.

Lukhan Tui will also sit out the first two matches on tour after pulling his hamstring against the Barbarians on Saturday, leaving some lock spots open.

Cheika said Enever was surprised at the call-up, notified just hours before canberra's NRC game against the Greater Sydney Rams this afternoon. 

"I spoke with (Brumbies coach) Dan McKellar, spoke with (former Brumbies coach Stephen) Larkham and I saw his potential," Cheika said.

"You look back 18 months when we brought (Adam) Coleman into the squad, people thought the same thing in that first series.

"He had a few more runs on the board than Blake but he was still pretty new."

Matt Philip has been a Perth tandout. Photo: SuppliedThe athletic lock has the ability to potentially switch into the back row as well.

"I think his athletic nature is something we can build on," Cheika said.

"(He's got a) bit of mongrel, doesn't mind getting into the tough stuff and it’s goign to be tough over there (In Japan and the UK)."

Cheika said Philip had 'improved out of sight' in a career-best year.

Scans revealed Jack Dempsey had torn his hamstring tendon, with surgery and a 3-4 month layoff on the horizon.

Dempsey's loss means Ben McCalman comes into the squad, adding plenty of experience with 49 Test caps, but Cheika said he'd have plenty to catch up on.

"He gives us a bit of experience and he's a very popular player among the playing group," Cheika said.

"He's going to have a bit to catch up on because he hasn't been in the squad as well, at least on the field in 2017, until this week.

"So there's a fair bit of catching up to do but he's got the experience to do it, no doubt.

If Enever was surprised, Jack Maddocks was more so, picking up the call at a friend's 21st, after a superb Super Rugby and NRC season.

Maddocks was one of Australia's best in the U20s last year, when Cheika first noticed him, before making the transition into the Rebels.

His potential as a specialist fullback got him over the line, just edging out Brumbies fullback Tom Banks in the final selections for the tour.

Quade Cooper and Duncan Paia'aua were both overlooked, with Cheika confident Kurtley Beale and Reece Hodge would provide enough cover for Bernard Foley in the 10 position.

Cheika said tighthead Taniela Tupou would also link up with the squad after his Queensland Country campaign, with Country set to feature in the semi-finals.

Tupou will become eligible to play for the Wallabies next month.

The Wallabies will spend just three days in Japan ahead of their Test, having played on a weekend that is normally a spare one on the Wallabies calendar, keen to avoid a rush to pull together a squad.

"You've always got to prepare for what's just happened. We could've had a squad prepared and you get 2 or 3 injuries and everyone's scrambling - Blake Enever's playing today." he said.

"I think the time difference being only two hours and an afternoon kick-off there shouldn't be any problems with that.

"I think it allows us to not be rushed, allowed us time to get ourselves ready."

Cheika said he wouldn't be mixing around with his selections on the tour, with all his available A-listers set to return against Japan.

SQUAD

IN: Blake Enever, Matt Philip, Jack Maddocks, Adam Coleman, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Sean McMahon, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Rob Simmons, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley,Will Genia, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani

OUT: Duncan Paia'aua, Kyle Godwin, Jermaine Ainsley (ankle), Jack Dempsey (hamstring), Israel Folau (sabbatical), Folau Faingaa, Rory Arnold (quad), Kane Douglas, James Slipper, Jake Gordon

Wallabies squad for Spring Tour

Forwards

Allan Alaalatoa (19 Tests, Canberra Vikings, 23)

Adam Coleman (18 Tests, Perth Spirit, 26)

Blake Enever* (uncapped, Canberra Vikings, 26)

Tetera Faulkner (3 Tests, Perth Spirit, 29)

Ned Hanigan (9 Tests, NSW Country Eagles, 22)

Michael Hooper (c) (75 Tests, Sydney Rays, 26)

Sekope Kepu (87 Tests, NSW Country Eagles, 31)

Ben McCalman (49 Tests, Perth Spirit, 29)

Sean McMahon (22 Tests, Melbourne Rising, 23)

Stephen Moore (125 Tests, Queensland Country, 34)

Matt Philip* (uncapped, Perth Spirit, 23)

Tatafu Polota-Nau (78 Tests, Perth Spirit, 32)

Tom Robertson (15 Tests, NSW Country Eagles, 23)

Rob Simmons (78 Tests, Queensland Country, 28)

Scott Sio (39 Tests, Canberra Vikings, 26)

Lopeti Timani (9 Tests, Melbourne Rising, 27)

Lukhan Tui (3 Tests, Brisbane City, 21)

Jordan Uelese (2 Tests, Melbourne Rising, 20)

Backs

Kurtley Beale (67 Tests, NSW Country Eagles, 28)

Bernard Foley (vc) (52 Tests, NSW Country Eagles, 28)

Will Genia (vc) (85 Tests, Melbourne Rising, 29)

Reece Hodge (20 Tests, Melbourne Rising, 23)

Karmichael Hunt (3 Tests, Brisbane City, 30)

Samu Kerevi (14 Tests, Brisbane City, 24)

Marika Koroibete (4 Tests, Melbourne Rising, 25)

Tevita Kuridrani (54 Tests, Canberra Vikings, 26)

Billy Meakes* (uncapped, Perth Spirit, 26)

Izaia Perese* (uncapped, Queensland Country, 20)

Nick Phipps (58 Tests, Greater Sydney Rams, 28)

Joe Powell (2 Tests, Canberra Vikings, 23)

Curtis Rona (2 Tests, Perth Spirit, 25)

Henry Speight (17 Tests, Canberra Vikings, 29)

Development Players

Jack Maddocks* (uncapped, Melbourne Rising, 20)

Liam Wright* (uncapped, Queensland Country, 19)

*denotes uncapped player