The door isn’t shut on a Wallabies berth for Taqele Naiyaravoro despite the winger signing with Northampton for next season, coach Michael Cheika says.
Last year, Cheika initially overlooked Rob Horne and Scott Fardy, who were both heading to Europe, with Horne a late call-up after an injury to Samu Kerevi.
A trimmed-down Naiyaravoro has been in career-best form for the Waratahs this season, scoring 10 tries in nine matches, and Cheika said he was certainly in Test contention.
“He's definitely being looked at,” he said.
“He's made a huge impact to the Waratahs, no doubt about it.
“It's an area we're very strong, we've got a lot of competition on the wing but he's definitely up there in players we're talking about and that we're looking at closely as far as selection because he can do a certain job very, very well.”
Naiyaravoro is not the only player putting his hand up, with Reds lock Kane Douglas also rediscovering some form, though Cheika said they had to be clearly the best in their position to play.
“You've got to look at even last year or '16 - you go into it with a view that they're still players for Australia right now,” he said.
“(If) someone's competing with them strongly, a player that's going to be here and it's pretty even and it's a player for the longer term, you'll probably go there.
“If that player's standing out, and they're going overseas, I'd be crazy not to pick them either to help the team as well now while they're with Australian rugby.
“It's more about when we get to the selection table around picking those situations and identifying them correctly and going from there.”
There seems unlikely to be any bolts from the blue in the 33-man squad to be announced next Wednesday, but the intrigue will be in hooker and blindside flanker
David Pocock and Michael Hooper are all but certain to reignite their backrow partnership, but with Ned Hanigan injured, a number of candidates are being considered for the third spot.
Cheika said he was still unsure of the contract status of Crusaders’ backrower Pete Samu, though it seems unlikely that New Zealand Rugby would allow him to play for the Wallabies this season, even if he did qualify.
“There's a few guys around I've liked, I know Caleb Timu's been out, but I think (he'd be considered), probably more at eight as opposed to six,” he said.
“Lukhan Tui's back this week and he's played a bit for us there as well.
“I don't want to give away too many secrets about what we're looking at etc but there are a few players around who I think can fit the profiles.
“Obviously, with the two sevens, we're quite comfortable there, it's about finding someone who can step up with some of the principles we were just talking about there, the attack, the work ethic etc into that six role.
“A couple of guys I've mentioned they've got those skills and there's probably a couple of others around that we can look at as well when that time comes.”
Another Rugby World Cup backrow prospect would be Sean McMahon, with Cheika in conversations with the 23-year-old to return to Australia in 2019, with the 2019-2020 Top League season being put on hold until after the international tournament.
Rebels hooker Jordan Uelese will return to the Super Rugby fray this week, potentially putting him at the top of the list to play no. 2 in June, with Tatafu Polota-Nau injured.
Uelese will come off the bench for Melbourne after an arm injury, but is the most recently capped hooker among the Super Rugby options, though Queensland’s Brendan Paenga-Amosa and Rebels starter Anaru Rangi have also impressed.
The Wallabies play their first June Test in Brisbane on June 9 against Ireland, kicking off at 8pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.