Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has made it clear he believes the 35-player squad selected for England is the strongest yet under his tenure as he prepares for July's three Test-series
When looking at the strength of a squad, it's often not who is selected, but rather who isn't as the likes of Fraser McReight and Reece Hodge miss out.
“We spent a lot of time looking at the squad and balance,” Rennie told reporters on Sunday.
“There were some tight decisions and some disappointed guys and that’s a reflection on the depth in the squad now, we’re certainly getting competition for places.
“For some of those guys, there’s an Australian A program to push their case.”
The Reds flanker is a key example of a player targeted for that Pacific Nations Cup campaign with Australia A, limited for International minutes behind John Eales Medalist and Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper.
Rennie confirmed he remains firmly in the mix and will be called upon if a repeat of the Spring Tour happens and Hooper goes down injured.
“Our thinking around him is we’re unlikely to have a specialist seven on the bench when you’ve got someone like a Pete Samu who can give you more cover,” Rennie explained.
“If Hoops was to go down we know we could bring Fraser back. So him playing week in week out in the Pacific Nations (Cup) will be good for him.
"That’s the thinking there and likewise with a few other guys, they’re going to get their chance to push their case.”
As for Hodge, Rennie pointed to a slow start to his exclusion, favouring the likes of Tom Wright and Reds flyer Suliasi Vunivalu, praising his professionalism on and off the field.
“It’s tough on Hodgey because he’s such a good man,” he added.
“He’s as professional as you get. He's a guy who even regardless of how he plays for the Rebels, he puts on a Wallabies jersey and always fronts, regardless of what position you play him.
“He had a pretty scratchy start to the season. To be fair, his form’s been mixed, we know what he brings. He’ll get a chance to go into the (Australia) A program and get a bit more footy under the belt and keep putting the pressure on.
"He covers so many spots that he’s likely to force his way in at some stage in some position.”
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With a stacked calendar on the horizon, up to 14 Tests in 2022, Rennie had little doubt whether this series against England is his most important to date, looking to begin the build to the 2023 World Cup.
“I would say so,” he admitted.
“The French series was fantastic for us last year but we’re a lot more experience now. We’ve got a lot of boys who have a lot more Tests under their belt and I think we’ve added a little bit of steel to the group as well.
“It’s a big series, we know that and we’re excited about it but we’ve got a great year. Beyond this, We play all the best sides in the world, 14 really strong Tests against tier-one nations, it’s great prep heading into next year.
“We’re trying to win Tests along the way that’s our focus. But we’ve done a fair bit of World Cup planning as well as planning for this season, while there are details often around the facilities and logistical stuff, it’s also about the group we think we’ll need and the flexibility of positions because we’ll pick a couple less for the World Cup.”