Australia will take on New Zealand in this week’s Tri-Nations rugby Test without its two most experienced players after Nathan Sharpe and Matt Giteau were left off the 24-man match squad.
Sharpe, who’s played 95 Tests, wasn’t among the four locks picked for the Aug. 6 game in Auckland as selectors recalled Dan Vickerman and Sitaleki Timani alongside James Horwill and Rob Simmons. The team will be named in two days.
“A few guys have missed out but that just shows you how healthy the depth is,” Wallabies fly-half Quade Cooper told reporters in televised comments. “Over the last few weeks at training everyone has been fighting for a spot.”
Giteau, the most-capped back in the Wallabies 40-man roster with 92 Test appearances, was again excluded after being dropped following last month’s upset loss to Samoa. The touring group includes 20 of the 22 players from the win over South Africa in the July 23 Tri-Nations opener. Australia’s 30-man Rugby World Cup squad is scheduled to be announced Aug. 18.
The other player to drop out is scrum-half Nick Phipps, who makes way for Luke Burgess. Winger Lachie Turner was also called up after impressing in club matches.
Australia and New Zealand are tied on five points atop the Tri-Nations standings following bonus-point victories over a second-string Springboks team.
The top-ranked All Blacks are undefeated at Auckland’s Eden Park since 1994. The stadium will host this year’s World Cup final on Oct. 23.
AUSTRALIA SQUAD: Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Quade Cooper, Pekahou Cowan, Rocky Elsom (captain), Anthony Fainga’a, Saia Fainga’a, Will Genia, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, James Horwill, Digby Ioane, Sekope Kepu, Pat McCabe, Ben McCalman, Stephen Moore, James O’Connor, David Pocock, Rob Simmons, Sitaleki Timani, Lachie Turner, Dan Vickerman.