Tuesday’s rugby news looks at the first Wallaby team of the year, Kerevi’s Olympic bid, Alred kicking on, and another big signing for the Force.
WALLABIES TEAM TO PLAY FRANCE
1. James Slipper (100 Tests)
2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa (8 Tests)
3. Allan Alaalatoa (43 Tests)
4. Matt Philip (9 Tests)
5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (25 Tests)
6. Rob Valetini (4 Tests)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (105 Tests)
8. Harry Wilson (6 Tests)
9. Jake Gordon (5 Tests)
10. Noah Lolesio (2 Tests)
11. Marika Koroibete (32 Tests)
12. Matt To’omua (54 Tests)
13. Hunter Paisami (6 Tests)
14. Tom Wright (3 Tests)
15. Tom Banks (11 Tests)
16. Lachlan Lonergan*
17. Angus Bell (3 Tests)
18. Taniela Tupou (25 Tests)
19. Darcy Swain*
20. Isi Naisarani (8 Tests)
21. Tate McDermott (2 Tests)
22. Len Ikitau*
23. Andrew Kellaway*
Jake Gordon has completed an incredible recovery from injury, named to start for the Wallabies for the first Test against France at Suncorp Stadium.
Gordon will line up in the halves alongside Noah Lolesio, with James O’Connor failing to overcome a groin strain.
Brumbies props James Slipper and Allan Alaalatoa have been named to start alongside Reds hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa in the front-row, with Matt Philip and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto rounding out the tight five in the second-row.
Captain Michael Hooper is joined in an exciting back-row with Rob Valetini and Harry Wilson.
Matt To’omua has recovered from a groin complaint and will partner Hunter Paisami in the centres, with Marika Koroibete, Tom Wright and Tom Banks forming an electric back-three.
There are four debutants on the bench, with Lachlan Lonergan, Darcy Swain, Len Ikitau and Andrew Kellaway primed to make their debut.
They are joined by damaging props Taniela Tupou and Angus Bell, Rebels number eight Isi Naisarani and Reds scrumhalf Tate McDermott.
Samu Kerevi is off to the Olympics
Samu Kerevi may be named this weekend in the Australian Olympic Sevens squad.
It is understood, the Japan-based Wallabies centre, who left Australian rugby following the 2019 World Cup, will be included in the 12-man squad less than a fortnight after joining the squad.
Former Australian captain Lewis Holland is set to miss out on the squad after hurting his hamstring on his return to the squad from a stint in Super Rugby with the Rebels.
But the tryscoring machine, who is blessed with one of the best passes in Australian rugby, could still make the squad if he recovers and is selected as the 13th man — a position Walsh does not need to fill until the eve of the Olympics.
Trae Williams — Australia’s former fastest 100m sprinter — is too in danger of missing the squad, with speedster Dietrich Roache set to be included a year after joining the national program.
“I think after the World Cup I thought that was it,” Kerevi said.
“You always have the urge to play high level rugby, especially playing for your nation.
“You never forget the taste of the jersey when you get the honour to wear it and run out with 14 other mates and it’s a very special thing to have in your career.”
Australia, who was the No.4 nation on the World Series standings before COVID-19 stopped the tournament last year, have a difficult assignment to get on the podium at Tokyo.
Walsh’s men have been pooled alongside favourites New Zealand, Argentina and the Republic of Korea.
Alred joins Wallaby Set up
David Alred, the man who coached Jonny Wilkinson and the man responsible for the marked improvement in the Reds kicking, has teamed up with Dave Rennie in the Wallabies setup.
It won’t just be mentoring on goalkicking. It’s time to again salute the “torp” and downgrade the drop punt that has polluted rugby with overuse since it was copied from the AFL.
Alred’s presence at Wallabies’ camp at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast is a timely acknowledgement by Test boss Dave Rennie of the big gains that his players can make in this hit-or-miss area of their game.
Alred is on board as a kicking consultant.
It’s a role that Wallaby James O’Connor thought so necessary that he was part of a group of Queensland Reds’ players who paid money out of their own pockets for sessions with Alred throughout the Super Rugby season.
O’Connor operated at a superb 88 per cent (56-from-64) as a goalkicker throughout Super Rugby and found more distance and reliability with his punting in general play.
“Dave was a big help for all the kickers in those sessions. He helped with my process and thinking with kicks in general play as well as the technical side,” O’Connor said.
“You don’t have to belt the ball to get distance. That was a really important message for me as well.”
The latter took strain off his groin where a niggle prevented O’Connor from goalkicking at the start of the 2020 season.
Alred’s thoroughness extends to players keeping diaries where they rate their daily kicking performance against their own standards.
Manasa Mataele Joins The Force
The western Force’s spending spree continues with the signing of exciting Crusaders winger Manasa Mataele on a two year deal.
Mataele, who has played 33 games for the defending champions, has had a breakout 2021 campaign, named in Fiji’s squad to face New Zealand.
“This is a really exciting opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. It’s a great new challenge for me,” Mataele said in a statement
“It was fantastic to see the Force back in Super Rugby action and thriving this year. They play an expansive and fast-paced style, which suits my game.
“I’m looking forward to developing my game under Tim Sampson and give my all for the club.”