Rennie names 16 new caps in 1st Wallabies squad

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SYDNEY (AP) — Dave Rennie has named 16 uncapped players in his first squad as Wallabies head coach, signaling a generational shift by retaining only 16 of 31 players who took part in last year’s World Cup.

In a clear shift towards youth and regeneration, eight of Rennie’s 16 new caps made their Super Rugby debuts this year and the squad has an average age of 24.

Rennie has yet to name his captain but the incumbent, Michael Hooper, was among the veterans who retained his position.

“This is a really exciting day for us,” New Zealand-born Rennie said. “We have picked this squad on form and on potential and I know the whole group are champing at the bit to get stuck in and push their case for a Wallaby jersey.”

Rennie named an unusually large squad of 44 players because quarantine requirements during the coronavirus pandemic make adding players difficult. Australia will play New Zealand in Bledisloe Cup tests in New Zealand on Oct. 17 and 24 before returning to face New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa in the Rugby Championship in Australia from Nov. 7 to Dec. 12..

The squad was expected to comprise 46 players and Rennie is expected to name two more, overseas-based players in the near future.

“When we picked the squad we had to consider how we will handle the rigors of the test calendar ahead,” Rennie said. “It is obviously a big squad which is due to COVID restrictions as we can’t bring players in and out but each one of them is there on merit.”

No overseas-based players were named in the initial squad, though on Thursday Rugby Australia announced an amendment to its rules to allow Rennie to include an additional two overseas-based players who don’t meet the existing 60-cap and seven-year service threshold for selection. The move follows the departure of several senior Wallabies players to Japan and Europe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Backrowers Isi Naisarani and Jack Dempsey and veteran midfielder Tevita Kuridrani are notable omissions from the squad.

Rennie has named four locks, including seasoned Rob Simmons who is the only man in the squad to have played 100 tests. But Rennie may still may look overseas to Rory Arnold, Will Skelton and Izack Rodda for reinforcement.

Uncapped Irae Simone and Len Ikitau from the ACT Brumbies have been named in midfield and Filipo Daugunu and James Ramm among the outside backs.

There are eight props, including the newcomers Angus Bell and Pone Fa’aumasili. New cap Tate McDermott is named at scrumhalf beside Nic White, Joe Powell and Jake Gordon and flyhalves Will Harrison and Noah Lolesio join James O’Connor and Matt To’omua.

The squad includes 11 players from the Queensland Reds, 13 from the Brumbies, 11 from the New South Waratahs and nine from the Melbourne Rebels.

Toomua, Dane Haylett-Petty and Jordan Uelese have all been named despite sustaining injuries in Saturday’s preliminary final of Australia’s domestic Super Rugby competition.

The new caps are Angus Bell, Filipo Daugunu, Pone Fa’amausili, Will Harrison, Tom Horton, Trevor Hosea, Len Ikitau, Noah Lolesio, Tate McDermott, Fraser McReight, Hunter Paisami, James Ramm, Irae Simone, Lachie Swinton, Harry Wilson and Tom Wright.

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Australia squad: Jermaine Ainsley, Allan Alaalatoa, Tom Banks, Angus Bell, Filipo Daugunu, Pone Fa’amausili, Folau Fainga’a, Jake Gordon, Ned Hanigan, Will Harrison, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper, Tom Horton, Trevor Hosea, Len Ikitau, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Jack Maddocks, Tate McDermott, Fraser McReight, James O’Connor, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Matt Philip, Joe Powell, James Ramm, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Pete Samu, Rob Simmons, Irae Simone, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Lachie Swinton, Matt To’omua, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright, Tom Wright.

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