Winners and losers from the Wallabies squad as ‘Junkyard Dog’ left out to dry while ex-All Black set to make 50-year first

Dylan Coetzee
Split with Kurtley Beale and Tim Ryan.

Split with Kurtley Beale and Tim Ryan.

New Wallabies head coach Joe Schmidt has named his first squad ahead of Tests against Wales and Georgia in the mid-year window.

Schmidt joined the Wallabies after a disastrous tenure under veteran coach Eddie Jones and begins the job of picking up the pieces with a British & Irish Lions series next year on his mind.

It was always going to be a clean slate of sorts for Schmidt’s first squad selection, meaning there is much to discuss with our winners and losers.

Winners

Kurtley Beale makes his return to the Wallabies set-up after off-field issues and legal proceedings kept him out of the picture for over a year. The versatile veteran made a blockbuster return to the game with the Western Force and his experience will be vital for a young and out-of-sorts Wallabies side. Whether or not he goes straight in as a starter will be seen in a few weeks’ time but even his input as a squad member is massive.

There are 13 uncapped players in the squad but we will look at 10 of them initially. Angus Blyth, Charlie Cale, Isaac Kailea, Ryan Smith, Jeremy Williams, David Feliuai, Josh Flook, Darby Lancaster, Dylan Pietsch and Hamish Stewart have all been called up following promising seasons. These are the players Schmidt will be desperate to see hit the ground running. Cale, in particular, has been a brilliant option at number eight with speedsters Lancaster and Pietsch expected to step up with wing looking thin. It is pretty mind-blowing to think Stewart has not played for Australia and offers the side a ball-playing Berrick Barnes-esque option at 10 or 12.

Other uncapped stars are continuing the family tradition with fly-half Tom Lynagh following in the footsteps of 1999 World Cup-winning legend and father Michael. He will be looking to fly his family name high for the Wallabies, as will Josh Nasser, whose father Brendan Nasser also hoisted the World Cup in 1991. It will interesting to see how the hooker goes.

Many will view it as a sin but for the first time since 1974, we have a trans-Tasman international in the form of Alex Hodgman who has four caps for the All Blacks. He has been solid for the Reds and earned his spot in the squad. He adds to a prop stock that is struggling with injury.

Returning players Harry Wilson, Noah Lolesio and Tom Wright all deserve special mention. Number eight Wilson was outstanding last year, leading both tackle and carry stats, but missed out on Jones’ squad. It is difficult to find a harder working player on the field and he will only add to the squad. Lolesio dealt with his omission from the World Cup squad rather well, keeping his head down and putting together a lovely season for the Brumbies. He is a well-rounded 10 and a must-have in the squad. Finally, Wright is probably the one player Jones regrets dropping the most. The full-back has exceptional running ability and is always looking to make something happen with ball in hand. If your backline needs a spark or a bit of magic he is your man.

Rugby Internationals: The complete June-July fixture list including dates, venues and match officials

Losers

The injured players have to form part of the losers, unfortunately. Angus Bell, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Max Jorgensen, Rob Leota, Lachlan Lonergan, David Porecki and Blake Schoupp are all out injured, as listed by the Wallabies. Immediately, the first thing that comes to mind is how many front-rows there are on that list, especially props. It is never easy for a coach to deal with players but when they are all in one area like this it makes for a bigger challenge.

Building on from the injuries are the unavailable players and this section is for Corey Toole, who has joined the Australian 7s side ahead of the Olympics. Toole is rapid, almost beyond belief, and is a natural finisher to match, which one would think would make him a straight up starter for the Wallabies given the lack of depth. Still, he could play a big role later on in the year.

Interestingly, there overseas-based players have been omitted so no Will Skelton, Marika Koroibete, Richie Arnold or even Quade Cooper. It could be Schmidt wanting to reward local talent or even the fact that the overseas stars may not be at their peak come the next World Cup. Still, we expected some overseas influence, especially from someone like Skelton, who could add massively to a squad environment.

There are also no league converts. The likes of Mark Nawaqanitawase and Carter Gordon, who are switching to the NRL soon, have not been selected, while Jordan Petaia is absent amid talk of him quitting rugby union to try his hand at American football.

Tim Ryan is probably the most surprising omission after the ‘The Junkyard Dog’ burst onto the scene this season, scoring tries for fun. The Red had a sensational rookie campaign and is a genuine talent but in reality, he has only played nine games for the Queenslanders in his entire career and perhaps a call-up would have been too soon.

Second-row duo Seru Uru and Josh Canham could count themselves unlucky after strong seasons but it is an area where the Wallabies are fine for depth, with Nick Frost, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Blyth, Ryan Smith and Jeremy Williams the options selected by Schmidt.

READ MORE: Son of famous Wallaby receives Australia call-up as Joe Schmidt selects first Test squad which includes ex-All Black