Sydney raise questions over Wallabies allocation as casualties mount

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by Beth Newman

The Sydney Rays have raised post-match questions about Wallabies NRC allocations after another lopsided front row encounter left them with a mounting injury list.

In their second match in four days, a young Rays front row was up against international quality opposition, an imbalance that showed with Wallabies Tom Robertson, Tolu Latu and Paddy Ryan going up against Matt Sandell, Damien Fitzpatrick and Cam Betham.

The inclusion of Wallabies tighthead Sekope Kepu on the Eagles' especially raised some eyebrows, with the Randwick prop playing his first NRC game as an Eagle despite having seemingly little country connection.

With the Country Eagles counting five Wallabies in their numbers on Wednesday night, the Rays’ inexperience stood out and left them questioning the allocation process.

In past years there has been a quota for Wallabies players at each NRC team but that does not apply anymore, with players and their respective state unions able to decide which team they want to be assigned.

Rays coach Chris Whitaker admitted there was an obvious gulf between the teams’ packs but was proud of his side’s efforts against the odds.

“We're club players playing against the Wallabies front row out there,” he said.

“It was always going to be a tough ask. We’ve got some very sore boys in there - one of the props is going away for X rays.

“Against a Wallaby front row I think they did a very good job.

“It's a tough learning for them but hopefully they get there as long as they don't get too demoralised after the results but I suppose we've got to keep trying to improve and keep going.” 

Even Eagles coach Darren Coleman was unsure how Kepu came to be playing in their 23 but having seen the other side of the equation in the Shute Shield, he wasn’t going to question the decision.

“I was on the wrong side of that three weeks ago in the club grand final so I was actually looking forward to being on the right side of the ledger,” he said.

“Whits (Chris Whitaker) and Owen (Rays assistant Owen Finegan) had asked about it but Owen when Randwick won all those championships back in those years, you never gave up any of your Wallabies for other teams.

“I don't know how those Wallabies are allocated so I can't comment whether it's fair or unfair.

“I'm assuming they've (the Rays) got Israel and other guys like that.”

The Rays are likely to welcome Jack Dempsey but they are counting their wounded with just a four-day break until their clash with the Drua.

Prop Cam Betham, captain Damien Fitzpatrick and young back Will Harrison are all set to miss the clash with injuries, while Rob Simmons will return to the Wallabies fold.

That group is being added to already injured Rays John Folau, Cam Clark and Pama Fou and Whitaker said it wouldn’t be easy to find players for Sunday’s match.

“(It’s going to be) super tough,” he said.

“It's tough to find the players. A lot of them are on holidays now, so we'll just ring around and see what's out there and see who wants to come and have a game.”

The Rays take on the Drua on Sunday September 23, kicking off at 3pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.