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Five things we learnt from the Wallabies' squad announcement to face England

Tue, 14/06/2022, 3:49 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has spoken after announcing his 35-man squad for the upcoming England Series.

The first formal Wallabies squad of 2022 was free of any shock bolters but showcased the intense competition for spots and depth that are starting to build in Australian Rugby.

There were some notable omissions from the 35-man squad for England but it saw the dominant Brumbies rewarded whilst a number of veterans look set for debuts.

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So what did we learn from the announcement and subsequent press conferences/media appearances?

1.McReight move

The decision to omit Fraser McReight raised plenty of eyebrows but has been done with the future in mind.

Rennie all but admitted McReight would’ve featured in the squad had there not been an Australia A program and looms as the main piece of that squad to be named on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old is a generational talent over the ball but there are still certain questions about how his discipline and defence will stand up at the International level.

There’s no better test for this than facing three physical, International-level opposition in the Pacific Nations Cup.

2. Ikitau boost

The conjecture around Len Ikitau’s status has been seemingly cleared with Rennie confirming he will serve the second game of his ban via club rugby.

“Lenny was obviously missed over the weekend but he’ll be available for a club game and he’ll be available to rock up Test one,” he said.

With Hunter Paisami (shoulder) and Izaia Perese (knee) only recently returning from injury, it provides crucial stability in the backline for the Wallabies, reuniting his successful partnership with Samu Kerevi.

3. Holloway headache

Waratahs duo Jed Holloway and Dave Porecki were the major winners out of the squad announcement with both players in line for their debut come July 2.

Porecki is favoured to nab a spot in the 23, however, where Holloway fits in may be more complicated than first thought.

When asked on Holloway, Rennie hinted he viewed him more as a 6-8 rather than lock.

“Jed is a big man, excellent skill set, and a good athlete,” Rennie said. “His ability to break the line, create space for others. First four weeks he spent a fair bit of time on the ground, gave him a call and pointed that out and from that week on he was in the 90s in his ability to get back on his feet and get back in the game.

“He’s been excellent. We think he’s more a 6-8 but as we’ve seen he’s played lock all year and he’s been a great for them, dominated their line out ball.”

With the blindside flanker position very much up for grabs, Holloway looms as a smoky option if Rennie wants to go down the Brumbies route and use him in a Tom Hooper-type role.

4. International decisions

Izack Rodda’s injury may force a reconsideration of the International selections as the lock spends considerable time on the sidelines.

His absence means at least one debutant will be selected for the first Test, although Holloway and Neville come in with plenty of Super experience.

Rennie suggested on Thursday the likes of Skelton and Rory Arnold, who produced a great piece of play to set up Antoine Dupont over the weekend, remain firmly on the radar for the Rugby Championship and beyond.

With the SMH reporting Kerevi could make a return to Sevens for the Commonwealth Games, it could open the door for one of the twin towers to return for Argentina or even the Springboks Tests.

5. The true ‘point of difference’

The set piece battle remains crucial to this match-up according to Rennie, looking to dominate the contest.

“We’re going to have a really good scrum and we want that to be a point of difference in this series,” Rennie said on Sunday.

“From a lineout perspective and maul we know that’s going to be huge. They’re going to put a lot of ball up in the air. We’ve spent so much time studying them, we know what’s coming. Our challenge is to be good enough to deal with that and apply pressure ourselves.”

You have to wonder what he would’ve been thinking less than 24 hours earlier when a Wallaby-lathered Brumbies front-row was dominated by the Blues in the Super Rugby Pacific semi-final.

This could open the door for the likes of Angus Bell, Dave Porecki and/or Taniela Tupou to start, with Tupou cleared to go from his calf injury.

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