The Queensland Reds were rewarded for winning the Super Rugby title with 15 players called up to the national squad as Australia seeks to take their momentum all the way to this year’s World Cup.
A day after their 18-13 win over the seven-time champion Crusaders in Brisbane, the Reds provided almost 40 percent of the Wallabies’ 40-man roster for next week’s Test against Samoa and the Tri-Nations series.
“That’s fair reward for a great performance,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said yesterday at a news conference. “We haven’t had a lot of recent success at Super Rugby level. It was a great effort and we hope to run off that. There’s a big overlap of people, inevitably there will be some carry-over.”
The Reds secured their first elite southern hemisphere provincial rugby championship in the professional era two days ago to become the first Australian winner since 2004. Queensland had finished in the bottom three in the six seasons prior to 2009 and suffered a record 92-3 defeat to South Africa’s Bulls four years ago, the biggest losing margin in the competition’s 16 seasons.
Reds scrum-half Will Genia dashed 65 meters for the match-winning try to break a 13-13 tie with 12 minutes left at Suncorp Stadium two days ago. Winger Digby Ioane went on a solo run for the Reds’ other try and fly-half Quade Cooper kicked eight points. Dan Carter scored all of the Crusaders’ points.
Carter was among 13 Crusaders players chosen in New Zealand’s 30-man squad for the Tri-Nations and a Test against Fiji on July 22. Highlanders lock Jarrad Hoeata was the only newcomer to the All Blacks roster.
Genia, who was named Australia’s Super Rugby Player of the Year last month, said he and his teammates would try to infuse their title-winning confidence in the Wallabies squad.
“It’s just all about self-belief,” Genia told reporters. “Look at the Reds, who would have thought two years ago we would have won that title, or even last year, or even the start of the year. If we can take that belief in there to the core group it will go a long way towards hoping to be successful.”
Australia is scheduled to name its 30-man squad for the Sept. 9-Oct. 23 World Cup in New Zealand on Aug. 18, midway through the Tri-Nations.
Only once has the same country produced the Super Rugby and World Cup champion in the same year, when the Bulls took the 2007 provincial title and the Springboks won the Webb Ellis Cup in France.
‘Sense of Foreboding’
Still, the Reds’ victory signals that Australia will be a major threat to tournament favorite New Zealand’s chances of a first World Cup victory since 1987, former All Blacks said.
“While the Crusaders were a bit off-key in a tense, emotion-filled Super Rugby final, I now have a deep sense of foreboding as to what this means come September and October,” Justin Marshall, who played 81 Tests for New Zealand, wrote in today’s Dominion Post. “We need to be wary of their raw talent and potential.”
Before opening their campaign for a third World Cup victory, the Wallabies will try to break their Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations droughts as they take on New Zealand and South Africa home and away.
“We haven’t won the Bledisloe Cup since 2002, we haven’t won the Tri-Nations since 2001 and we want to win both of them and we want to go to New Zealand with more momentum,” John O’Neill, chief executive officer of the Australian Rugby Union, told reporters yesterday. “Last night we added some momentum and one would hope we carry that through to the World Cup.”
Reds flanker Beau Robinson, hooker James Hanson and New South Wales Waratahs lock Sitaleki Timani were the three rookies in the Wallabies squad. The Waratahs, who lost in the Super Rugby qualifying finals, had the second biggest representation of Australia’s five teams with 11 players.
Radike Samo, a 35-year-old backrower, was recalled for the first time since 2004 after joining the Reds late last season as injury cover and getting a full-time contract this year.
“Seven years after he first played Test matches, he has got into good shape physically and has shown that he still has an appetite for rugby at this level,” Deans said of Samo.
Selectors retained Rocky Elsom as captain even though he only played one match for the ACT Brumbies in an injury-plagued season. Former Wallabies skippers Stirling Mortlock and Phil Waugh were omitted.
Reds backs Rod Davies and Luke Morahan, Melbourne Rebels scrum-half Nick Phipps, and Waratahs loose forward Dave Dennis were the four other uncapped players included.
This year’s truncated international season will make it difficult for players to break into the squad, Deans said.
“It is a short window this year,” he said. “There isn’t much opportunity for experimentation. Those in the 40 have the much greater opportunity to press their claims for down the track, the World Cup.”
WALLABIES SQUAD: Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Quade Cooper, Ben Daley, Rod Davies, Dave Dennis, Rocky Elsom, Anthony Faingaa, Saia Faingaa, Will Genia, Mark Gerrard, Matt Giteau, James Hanson, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, James Horwill, Digby Ioane, Sekope Kepu, Salesi Maafu, Pat McCabe, Ben McCalman, Stephen Moore, Luke Morahan, Dean Mumm, James O’Connor, Wycliff Palu, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota Nau, Beau Robinson, Benn Robinson, Radike Samo, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Sitaleki Timani, Lachie Turner, Dan Vickerman. ALL BLACKS SQUAD: BACKS: Mils Muliaina, Israel Dagg, Isaia Toeava, Hosea Gear, Zac Guildford, Richard Kahui, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Ma’a Nonu, Dan Carter, Colin Slade, Jimmy Cowan, Andy Ellis, Piri Weepu. FORWARDS: Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson, Liam Messam, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Sam Whitelock, Jarrad Hoeata, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, John Afoa, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Corey Flynn, Andrew Hore. INJURY BACKUPS: Wyatt Crockett, Cory Jane, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Ben Smith.