Wallabies Pick Pocock, Omit Higginbotham for European Rugby Tour

Australia picked rookie prop Paddy Ryan in a 30-man rugby squad to tour Europe next month, when flanker David Pocock will make his return from a knee injury. Fellow back-rower Scott Higginbotham was omitted.

Ryan, 24, is the only uncapped player on a roster featuring seven first-year Wallabies. Hooker Stephen Moore and utility back Berrick Barnes were included after recovering from hamstring and lung injuries, respectively.

Openside flanker Pocock returns after missing the past 10 weeks because of damaged knee cartilage. Higginbotham was left out following his suspension for the first two matches of the four-Test schedule, which will have a bearing on Australia’s seeding for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

“To have included Scott within the 30 would have created an additional challenge in terms of selection for the opening two matches which would have compromised the group,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said in an e-mailed statement. “Scott was aware once he was suspended that this was a possibility.”

Higginbotham, who was banned for two games for kneeing and head-butting New Zealand captain Richie McCaw in the teams’ 18-18 draw five days ago, will be on stand-by to join the tour in case of any injuries.

Winger Digby Ioane is available after missing the match against New Zealand, as are forwards Sekope Kepu and Sitaleki Timani, who got injured during the draw in Brisbane.

The Wallabies, the No. 2 team behind the All Blacks in the International Rugby Board rankings, open their tour Nov. 10 against France in Paris before facing England, Italy and Wales on successive Saturdays.

Australia faces three of the four teams ranked immediately below it in the IRB standings. The rankings as of Dec. 3 will be used to band the 12 automatic qualifiers in the draw for the 2015 World Cup in England. The first four will be allocated to the top line in each of the four five-team groups at the 20-nation tournament.

WALLABIES SQUAD: Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Kurtley Beale, Nick Cummins, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Anthony Fainga’a, Liam Gill, James Hanson, Mike Harris, Michael Hooper, Digby Ioane, Sekope Kepu, Pat McCabe, Drew Mitchell, Stephen Moore, Wycliff Palu, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Paddy Ryan, Radike Samo, Nathan Sharpe, (captain), Brett Sheehan, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Ben Tapuai, Sitaleki Timani.

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