Super Rugby is done and dusted and now attention focuses on the Rugby Championship as the national coaches announce their extended straining squads.

Polota-Nau back as Hooper continues recovery
Qantas Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has today announced a 36-man training squad in Cessnock ahead of the opening Bledisloe Cup clash at ANZ Stadium on Saturday 18 August.
82-Test veteran Tatafu Polota-Nau has been selected after Michael Cheika elected to rest the 33-year old in the Mitsubishi Estate Ireland Series.
The squad features six uncapped players including rookie sensation Jordan Petaia, who shone in Friday night’s Bledisloe Cup trial at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney.
Petaia and Rebels centre Billy Meakes add cover to the midfield after injuries ruled out Test regulars Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi.
Captain Michael Hooper will continue his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury that he suffered in the final Test against Ireland while Vodafone Super Rugby champion Pete Samu will re-join his Wallabies teammates this week after completing his club duties in New Zealand.

Jermaine Ainsley* (uncapped, Melbourne Rebels, 22)
Allan Alaalatoa (23 Tests, Brumbies, 24)
Rory Arnold (15 Tests, Brumbies, 28)
Adam Coleman (23 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)
Folau Faingaa* (uncapped, Brumbies, 23)
Ned Hanigan (13 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 23)
Michael Hooper (c) (82 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 26)
Sekope Kepu (94 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 32)
Tolu Latu (7 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 25)
Brandon Paenga-Amosa (3 Tests, Queensland Reds, 22)
David Pocock (69 Tests, Brumbies, 30)
Tatafu Polota-Nau (82 Tests, Leicester, 33)
Tom Robertson (21 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 23)
Izack Rodda (7 Tests, Queensland Reds, 21)
Pete Samu (3 Tests, Brumbies, 26)
Rob Simmons (85 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)
Scott Sio (46 Tests, Brumbies, 26)
Caleb Timu (2 Tests, Queensland Reds, 24)
Lukhan Tui (7 Tests, Queensland Reds, 21)
Taniela Tupou (4 Tests, Queensland Reds, 22)
Tom Banks* (uncapped, Brumbies, 24)
Kurtley Beale (74 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)
Israel Folau (65 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)
Bernard Foley (58 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 28)
Will Genia (90 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 30)
Dane Haylett-Petty (21 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 29)
Reece Hodge (27 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 23)
Marika Koroibete (11 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)
Jack Maddocks* (uncapped, Melbourne Rebels, 21)
Billy Meakes* (uncapped, Melbourne Rebels, 27)
Sefa Naivalu (7 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)
Jordan Petaia* (uncapped, Queensland Reds, 18)
Nick Phipps (64 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)
Joe Powell (4 Tests, Brumbies, 24)
Curtis Rona (3 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 26)
Matt Toomua (33 Tests, Leicester/Melbourne Rebels, 28)
*denotes uncapped

Two New Faces in All Black Squad

The All Blacks selectors, Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Grant Fox, have named their squad for this year's Rugby Championship.

As well as the 33-man squad, two other players will assemble with the squad as injury cover. Hooker Liam Coltman comes in as cover for Dane Coles, who is expected to return to Test match rugby some time during the Investec Rugby Championship, while midfielder Ngani Laumape comes in for Sonny Bill Williams, who is recovering from a shoulder injury.

The squad also features two uncapped players. Crusaders and Tasman prop Tim Perry, who played two non-Tests on last year's Vista Northern Tour, was named in this year's Steinlager Series squad but missed the series with injury, while young Chiefs and Taranaki halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi has also been selected.

Another feature of the squad is the return of number eight and Captain Kieran Read, who missed the Steinlager Series through injury, while lock Brodie Retallick also returns to the side after 11 months away from Test rugby.

Players Kane Hames, Nepo Laulala, Atu Moli and Jordan Taufua were not considered for selection due to injury.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: "The selectors found this an incredibly difficult squad to select, and whilst we congratulate those who've been named in the Investec Rugby Championship team, we also commiserate with those who've missed out.

"It has to be noted that there are some very good players who have not made the squad.  However, as we've seen in previous campaigns, a number of these players will get an opportunity through injury, just like Liam and Ngani already."

Hansen added: "One of the positives of having such a talented pool to select from is that it creates natural competition, not only for spots in the Rugby Championship squad, but also the match day 23. That competition should remove any feelings of complacency within our playing group."

"Whilst last year was about growing depth - and we'll need to continue to do that in some positions - this year is more about growing our game and our player combinations within that.  By the end of the year, we should have a clearer picture of who and what will be needed for next year's Rugby World Cup campaign."

"We'll face quality opposition throughout the Championship. Both Australia and South Africa appear to have grown their games and will come at us with real energy and conviction, while the Argentinians have a new coaching group, which will present new challenges.

"All of this means that this year's Investec Rugby Championship will be a well-contested competition and we'll need to once again raise the bar across the board when it comes to our preparation, our skill levels and how we handle pressure. Being comfortable is not an option."


Dane Coles (31, Hurricanes / Wellington, 56)
Nathan Harris (26, Chiefs / Bay of Plenty, 13)
Codie Taylor (27, Crusaders / Canterbury, 32)

Owen Franks (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 98)
Joe Moody (29, Crusaders /Canterbury, 34)
Tim Perry (30, Crusaders / Tasman, uncapped)
Karl Tu'inukuafe (25, Chiefs / North Harbour, 3)
Ofa Tuungafasi (26, Blues / Auckland, 17)

Scott Barrett (24, Crusaders / Taranaki, 19)
Brodie Retallick (27, Chiefs / Hawke's Bay, 68)
Samuel Whitelock (29, Crusaders / Canterbury, 99)

Loose Forwards
Sam Cane (26, Chiefs / Bay of Plenty, 55)
Shannon Frizell (24, Highlanders / Tasman, 1)
Jackson Hemopo (24, Highlanders / Manawatu, 1)
Kieran Read (32, Crusaders / Counties Manukau, 109) - Captain
Ardie Savea (24, Hurricanes / Wellington, 25)
Liam Squire (27, Highlanders / Tasman, 17)
Luke Whitelock (27, Highlanders / Canterbury, 5)

TJ Perenara (26, Hurricanes / Wellington, 45)
Aaron Smith (29, Highlanders / Manawatu, 74)
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (23, Chiefs / Taranaki, uncapped)
First five-eighths
Beauden Barrett (27, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 65)
Damian McKenzie (23, Chiefs / Waikato, 15)
Richie Mo'unga (24, Crusaders / Canterbury, 1)
Ryan Crotty (29, Crusaders / Canterbury, 37)
Jack Goodhue (23, Crusaders / Northland, 1)
Anton Lienert-Brown (23, Chiefs / Waikato, 24)
Sonny Bill Williams (33, Blues / Counties Manukau, 46)
Outside backs
Jordie Barrett (21, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 5)
Rieko Ioane (21, Blues / Auckland, 16)
Nehe Milner-Skudder (27, Hurricanes / Manawatu, 11)
Waisake Naholo (27, Highlanders /Taranaki, 19)
Ben Smith (32, Highlanders /Otago, 67)

Marx, Whiteley and Etzebeth back in the Springbok fold

Under-20 fly-half Damian Willemse is one of three uncapped players included in the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship, with the Emirates Lions quartet of Malcolm Marx (hooker), Warren Whiteley (No 8), Ross Cronje (scrumhalf) and Lionel Mapoe (centre) also back in the Bok fold for the first time this season.

Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, announced a squad of 35 players on Monday, with two loose forwards, the Vodacom Bulls’ Marco van Staden and Cyle Brink of the Emirates Lions, joining Willemse, the 20-year-old DHL Stormers and Junior Springbok flyhalf, as the uncapped players in the group. 

Whiteley and the experienced Eben Etzebeth (lock) both return having recovered from long-term injuries, while Marx has shrugged off his hamstring troubles, which forced him to miss the June internationals.

Also returning to the Springbok squad are Francois Louw, the experienced flanker who plays for English club side Bath, Lwazi Mvovo (outside back), as well Mapoe (centre) and Cronje (scrumhalf), both of whom missed the midyear Tests because of injury.   

“It is pleasing to again add some young players who been showing good form and consistency for their franchise teams during Vodacom Super Rugby,” Erasmus said, in reference to the uncapped trio of Willemse, Van Staden and Brink.

Siya Kolisi retains the captaincy, while Le Roux (fullback, Wasps) and De Klerk (scrumhalf, Sale Sharks), both of whom were outstanding during the 2-1 Castle Lager Incoming Series win over England in June, are amongst the 15 backs in the squad.

The bulk of the players have been training in Stellenbosch for a few weeks, with the Emirates Lions contingent set to join them on Wednesday. The men from Johannesburg returned to South Africa on Monday after their Vodacom Super Rugby final appearance on Saturday against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Players who were not considered because of injury include Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers), Warrick Gelant, Lood de Jager, Trevor Nyakane (all Vodacom Bulls), Coenie Oosthuizen and Sbu Nkosi (both Cell C Sharks).

Forwards (20):

Cyle Brink (Loose forward, Emirates Lions, uncapped)
Jean-Luc du Preez (Loose forward, Cell C Sharks, 13, 10 - 2t)
Thomas du Toit (Prop, Cell C Sharks, 4, 0) 
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Lock / Loose forward, DHL Stormers, 36, 20 - 4t)
Eben Etzebeth (Lock, DHL Stormers, 67, 15 - 3t)
Steven Kitshoff (Prop, DHL Stormers, 27, 5 - 1t)
Siya Kolisi (captain – Loose forward, DHL Stormers, 31, 20 - 4t)
Francois Louw (Loose forward, Bath, England, 57, 45 - 9t)
Wilco Louw (Prop, DHL Stormers, 7, 0)
Frans Malherbe (Prop, DHL Stormers, 19, 0)
Malcolm Marx (Hooker, Emirates Lions, 14, 15 - 3t)
Bongi Mbonambi (Hooker, DHL Stormers, 16, 5 - 1t)
Franco Mostert (Lock, Emirates Lions, 21, 5 - 1t)
Tendai Mtawarira (Prop, Cell C Sharks, 101, 10 - 2t)
Sikhumbuzo Notshe (Loose forward, DHL Stormers, 4, 0)
Marvin Orie (Lock, Emirates Lions, 1, 0)
RG Snyman (Lock, Vodacom Bulls, 3, 0)
Akker van der Merwe (Hooker, Cell C Sharks, 3, 0) 
Marco van Staden (Loose forward, Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
Warren Whiteley (No 8, Emirates Lions, 17, 15 - 3t)

Backs (15):

Lukhanyo Am (Centre, Cell C Sharks, 3, 0)
Ross Cronjé (Scrumhalf, Emirates Lions, 10, 10 - 2t)
Faf de Klerk (Scrumhalf, Sale Sharks, England, 14, 5 - 1t)
Aphiwe Dyantyi (Wing, Emirates Lions, 3, 5 - 1t)
André Esterhuizen (Centre, Cell C Sharks, 2, 0)
Elton Janjies (Flyhalf, Emirates Lions, 26, 215 - 2t, 41c, 41p)
Jesse Kriel (Centre, Vodacom Bulls, 32, 45 - 9t)
Willie le Roux (Fullback, Wasps, England, 44, 55 - 11t)
Makazole Mapimpi (Wing, Cell C Sharks, 1, 5 - 1t)
Lionel Mapoe (Centre, Emirates Lions, 12, 0)
Lwazi Mvovo (Wing, Cell C Sharks, 17, 30 - 6t)
Embrose Papier (Scrumhalf, Vodacom Bulls, 2, 0)
Handré Pollard (Flyhalf, Vodacom Bulls, 29, 246 - 3t, 42c, 46p, 3d)
Ivan van Zyl (Scrumhalf, Vodacom Bulls, 3, 0)
Damian Willemse (Flyhalf, DHL Stormers, uncapped)


Six New Faces in Ledesma’s Argentina Squad

Former Jaguares coach and new Argentina coach Mario Ledesma has named six uncapped players in an extended squad for the Rugby Championship.

Last year Ledesma was Wallabies scrum coach before heading back to Aregentina to coach the Jaguares in Super Rugby. But in June he was named Pumas coach following Daniel Hourcade’s decision to step down after they won just two of their last 17 games.

The 45-year-old played in four World Cups for Argentina between 1999 and 2011 and has selected six new players:  uncapped front rowers Marco Ciccioli, Diego Fortuny, Lucas Favre and Mayco Vivas, lock Franco Molina and loose forward Santiago Grondona.

Key to success for Ledesma will be ensuring that players carry their form from the Jaguares, who reached the Super Rugby playoffs for the first time this season, onto the international stage with the Pumas. The extended squad are training in Buenos Aires before they open the tournament against South Africa in Durban on August 18.

Forwards: Matias Alemanno, Rodrigo Bruni, Marco Ciccioli, Agustin Creevy, Lucas Favre, Diego Fortuny, Santiago Garcia Botta, Santiago Grondona, Marcos Kremer, Ignacio Larrague, Tomas Lavanini, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Pablo Matera, Vivas Mayco, Santiago Medrano, Franco Molina, Julian Montoya, Javier Ortega Desio, Guido Petti, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Juan Zeiss

Backs: Gonzalo Bertranou, Emiliano Boffelli, Sebastian Cancelliere, Tomas Cubelli, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Bautista Delguy, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Bautista Ezcurra, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Martin Landajo, Juan Cruz Mallia, Matias Moroni, Ramiro Moyano, Matias Orlando, Nicolas Sanchez.