Wallabies squad full of surprises

Date published: May 26 2016

Former Australia captain James Horwill headlines a surprise group of overseas-based players named in the Wallabies squad for the series against England.

Horwill, who has been playing with Harlequins in the Premiership was sensationally left out of the Rugby World Cup squad last year, but has impressed at his new club.

The long-serving former Queensland Reds captain had previously voiced his willingness to remain available to the Wallabies while overseas.

Horwill is one of four players in the squad who has been playing in Europe or the United Kingdom, with Bordeaux prop Sekope Kepu, Leroy Houston and Taqele Naiyaravoro.

Houston and Naiyaravoro have both signed Super Rugby deals that will keep them in Queensland and New South Wales, respectively for the next two seasons.

While four overseas-based players have been named in the squad, there are a handful more who will not be considered for June, but will definitely be in the mix for the Rugby Championship.

Will Genia, Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell have all flagged a desire to don Wallabies gold again but have been rested or are unavailable through injury.

Horwill is by no means the only surprise inclusion in the squad, to convene on the Sunshine Coast from Sunday ahead of the first Test on June 11.

The Brumbies’ third-string scrum-half Joe Powell is the greatest bolter in the squad, with Cheika opting to pick the rookie ahead of much-hyped Rebels captain Nic Stirzaker.

Code-hopper Karmichael Hunt has also earned Cheika’s tick of approval, after his best season of Super Rugby yet for the Queensland Reds, as well as fellow former NRL star Eto Nabuli.

Those are three of the 10 uncapped players in the initial squad, with 23 players retained from last year’s World Cup.

An overflowing roster of loose forwards has not stopped Cheika from rewarding luckless Reds flanker Liam Gill by putting him in the squad, despite his looming departure to France.

In the backs, Christian Lealiifano seems earmarked as Kurtley Beale’s replacement, while Rebels full-back Mike Harris is also among the potential playmakers in the team.

Samu Kerevi is another who could possibly cover Beale’s spot, earning another opportunity to push his credentials in camp.

Harris can cover plenty of positions across the park, and needed just two games to show Cheika that he could push for a Wallabies spot for the first time since 2013.

Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua and Henry Speight are also in the Wallabies frame but with injury and Speight’s Sevens stint won’t be part of this squad.

Australia squad for England Test series:

Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Sam Carter, Adam Coleman, Scott Fardy, Liam Gill, James Hanson, Greg Holmes, Michael Hooper, James Horwill, Leroy Houston, Sekope Kepu, Ben McCalman, Sean McMahon, Stephen Moore, Dean Mumm, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Will Skelton, James Slipper, Toby Smith

Backs: Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Nick Frisby, Mike Harris, Dane Haylett-Petty, Rob Horne, Karmichael Hunt, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Samu Kerevi, Luke Morahan, Eto Nabuli, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell