Michael Cheika has named five potential debutants in his 32-man Australia squad for their forthcoming Test series against Six Nations Grand Slam winners Ireland.
Jack Maddocks, Tom Banks, Folau Fainga’a, Caleb Timu and Brandon Paenga-Amosa all feature among a group that sees 26-year-old Michael Hooper named as captain.
Australia’s first Test against Joe Schmidt’s side is on June 9 in Brisbane before encounters in Melbourne and Sydney on consecutive Saturdays.
Melbourne Rebels’ utility Maddocks got the nod after a head-turning season on the wing while fast-emerging Brumbies full-back Banks also makes the grade.
Queensland Reds’ Timu was another to receive a maiden call-up. He is among just five back-row forwards named, including captain Michael Hooper, Ned Hanigan – who will not be fit for the first Test – Lukhan Tui, and David Pocock.
Within the squad Australia’s head coach has left room for the potential inclusion of the Pete Samu.
Samu signed a contract with the Brumbies this week, becoming eligible for the Wallabies, but must also be released from New Zealand Rugby, due to his Super Rugby contract obligations.
The NZR do not have a deadline to decide upon Rugby Australia’s request to release Samu and as a result that leaves a question mark next to his potential participation.
“I’ve been told I can’t select him but there is a spot for him there,” said the head coach on the national side’s official website. “At this point, the decision’s in other hands.”
The Reds’ hooker Paenga-Amosa was another to get a first call-up, as was Fainga’a. Twice-capped Uelese is also included after recovering from a shoulder injury and as a result completes the inexperienced trio of hookers.
It’s been a rapid rise for Paenga-Amosa, who was playing Sydney club rugby barely a year ago.
“Brandon’s gone up against Malcolm Marx and performed right at the level,” said Cheika.
“For me, a guy who’s come out of club rugby… then he played in the NRC, got his opportunity out there, was spotted by the Reds and has taken that opportunity with both hands. Now his challenge will be to get himself in the match 23.”
The wing spots were among the most hotly contested, with Maddocks and Banks pipping the likes of Henry Speight, Izaia Perese and Taqele Naiyaravoro.
“I think it was just really tight,” the head coach said. “We’ve got very, very good attacking wingers and we look at the all-round components to make sure that we’re solid in relation to our ‘D’ and also our kicking game and the kicking game that will be coming from Ireland to us.”
Bernard Foley and Will Genia are named as the vice-captains behind Hooper with the experienced Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps and Tevita Kuridrani all named in the backs.
Australia’s 32-man squad
Forwards – Sekope Kepu, Tom Robertson, Scott Sio, Taniela Tupou, Allan Alaalatoa, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Jordan Uelese, Izack Rodda, Folau Fainga’a, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons, Michael Hooper (c), David Pocock, Caleb Timu, Lukhan Tui, Ned Hanigan.
Backs – Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Jack Maddocks, Sefa Naivalu, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell, Curtis Rona.