Waratahs young guns Will Harrison and Angus Bell have been included in the first batch of players for the Wallabies’ train on squad for the Bledisloe Cup and The Rugby Championship.
Five-eighth Harrison, 21, is one of just four NSW backs asked to join the expanded Players of National Interest (PONI) squad – along with halfback Jake Gordon, fullback Jack Maddocks and uncapped wing James Ramm.
Prop Bell, 19, is among eight NSW forwards invited, including incumbent Test skipper Michael Hooper and veteran lock Rob Simmons, who is heading to London Irish next season.
Watch every game of Super Rugby AU Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly
Three Western Force players – Kyle Godwin, Feleti Kaitu’u and Brynard Stander – were also selected so will remain in NSW when their teammates return to Perth now that their Super Rugby AU involvement has ended.
The 18 players selected so far will remain in a COVID bubble and start working with assistant Wallabies coach Scott Wisemantel and strength and conditioning coach John Pryor at the Waratahs training facility in Daceyville this week.
Players from the losing side in next weekend’s semi-final between the Reds and the Rebels will be added next week, then the remaining players will join after the grand final, hosted by the Brumbies on September 19.
Players who have already been picked could be cut later on when a squad of 46 is selected and relocated to Queensland.
Wallaby train on squad players
Waratahs – Angus Bell, Jack Dempsey, Tom Horton, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Rob Simmons, Ned Hanigan, Lachie Swinton, Michael Hooper, Jake Gordon, Will Harrison, Jack Maddocks, James Ramm.
Western Force – Kyle Godwin, Feleti Kaitu’u, Brynard Stander
FULL STEAM AHEAD
The final decision on where The Rugby Championship is held will be made later this week with organisers rejecting suggestions the tournament could be cancelled after six Argentinian players tested positive to coronavirus.
New Zealand remains the preferred country to host the six-week tournament, which will run from November 7-December 12, with Australia the back up choice if the Kiwis change their mind.
Argentina tested all of their 46 players prior to starting a two-month biosecurity bubble to prepare for The Rugby Championship.
The six players who tested positive were isolated before the training camp started and will be able to rejoin the squad if and when they are cleared.
In addition, all visiting players will have to serve two weeks of quarantine when they arrive in either New Zealand or Australia, giving officials confidence the tournament will proceed.
NEW FACES IN ALL BLACKS SQUAD
New Zealand selectors have already named a 35-man squad for the international season.
As expected, flanker Sam Cane takes over the captaincy vacated when Kieran Read retired after last year’s World Cup, while seven uncapped players made the shortlist.
Crusaders sensation Will Jordan, who scored the match-winning try in Saturday’s North v South clash in Wellington, was included along with Caleb Clarke as two new outside backs, while loose forwards Hoskins Sotutu and Cullen Grace, locks Quinten Strange and Tupou Vaa‘i and prop Alex Hodgman also got their first call ups.
Richie Mo‘unga and Beauden Barrett were both selected as five-eighths, leaving new All Blacks coach Ian Foster with a tricky decision about who to choose as his starting playmaker.
“We’re delighted with the balance of the group and we look forward to whatever the challenges of 2020 throw at us,” Foster said.
“Like everyone else, we‘re impatient to know what is happening, but we fully understand all the variables at play and we remain confident that there’ll be something for fans to look forward to in the not-too-distant future.”
New Zealand squad
Forwards: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody, Karl Tu‘inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Quinten Strange, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa’i, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane (captain), Shannon Frizell, Cullen Grace, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea, Hoskins Sotutu
Backs: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo‘unga, Braydon Ennor, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie, Sevu Reece
SUPER RUGBY AU TEAM OF THE WEEK
15. Jock Campbell (Reds)
14. Filipo Daugunu (Reds)
13. Jordan Petaia (Reds)
12. Henry Taefu (Western Force)
11. Marika Koroibete (Rebels)
10. Matt Toomua (Rebels)
9. Tate McDermott (Reds)
8. Isi Naisarani (Rebels)
7. Fraser McReight (Reds)
6. Liam Wright (Reds)
5. Darcy Swain (Brumbies)
4. Trevor Hosea (Rebels)
3. Taniela Tupou (Reds)
2. Andrew Ready (Western Force)
1. Cameron Orr (Rebels)