With the 2016 Rugby Championship just around the corner the respective national coaches have named their preliminary squads.
Qantas Wallabies Head Coach Michael Cheika has today announced his 33-man squad for The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup campaigns kicking off later this month.
The squad has been bolstered by a legion of experienced French-based Test campaigners, with Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Will Genia and Quade Cooper all named in the squad as the men in gold look to defend their Rugby Championship crown and end a long-standing Bledisloe Cup drought.
The Rugby Championship will be Cooper’s first stop on his comeback to Australia ahead of a Super Rugby return in 2017 following a brief stint with French powerhouse Toulon, where he linked with fellow Wallabies Giteau and Mitchell for the 2015/16 Top 14 season.
Fellow French-based star Will Genia will take his first steps on the comeback from a knee injury which has kept him out of Rugby since January, while utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper will look to add to his 114 Test caps after returning from Bordeaux.
The five foreign-based players are hungry for more success in the gold jersey having played an integral role in the Wallabies' run to the Rugby World Cup Final in England last year.
All four uncapped players included in Cheika's initial train-on squad - Allan Ala'alatoa, Reece Hodge, Tom Robertson and Lopeti Timani - have been retained in the final 33-man squad ahead of the four-nation tournament.
Three debutants from the recent England Series are also in the running to add to their Test tally with Samu Kerevi, Adam Coleman and Dane Haylett-Petty all named to join the squad at its training base in Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast next week.
Lock Kane Douglas is in the squad for the first time in 2016, after returning from a knee reconstruction, while his second row partner Rob Simmons has also made his way back from a shoulder injury which cut short his Super Rugby campaign.
Kurtley Beale, Rory Arnold and Joe Tomane were not considered for the squad because of injury.
The Qantas Wallabies will open their Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup campaigns against New Zealand at ANZ Stadium, Sydney, on Saturday, August 20. Tickets for the clash are available through Ticketek.
Qantas Wallabies 33-man squad for The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup
Allan Ala'alatoa* (0 Tests)
Adam Ashley-Cooper (114 Tests)
Adam Coleman (1 Test)
Quade Cooper (58 Tests)
Kane Douglas (23 Tests)
Scott Fardy (33 Tests)
Israel Folau (41 Tests)
Bernard Foley (30 Tests)
Will Genia (66 Tests)
Matt Giteau (102 Tests)
James Hanson (10 Tests)
Dane Haylett-Petty (3 Tests)
Reece Hodge* (0 Tests)
Michael Hooper (54 Tests)
Rob Horne (32 Tests)
Sekope Kepu (66 Tests)
Samu Kerevi (2 Tests)
Tevita Kuridrani (34 Tests)
Ben McCalman (48 Tests)
Sean McMahon (9 Tests)
Drew Mitchell (70 Tests)
Stephen Moore (c) (105 Tests)
Dean Mumm (46 Tests)
Nick Phipps (42 Tests)
David Pocock (56 Tests)
Tatafu Polota-Nau (64 Tests)
Tom Robertson (0 Tests)
Rob Simmons (62 Tests)
Scott Sio (18 Tests)
Will Skelton (15 Tests)
James Slipper (77 Tests)
Lopeti Timani* (0 Tests)
Matt Toomua (32 Tests)
All Blacks squad
Forwards: Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Patrick Tuipulotu, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane, Elliot Dixon, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read - Captain, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire.
Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Lima Sopoaga, Ryan Crotty, Malakai Fekitoa, George Moala, Sonny Bill Williams, Israel Dagg, Waisake Naholo,Julian Savea, Ben Smith.
Hurricanes outside back Nehe Milner-Skudder and Chiefs midfielder Charlie Ngatai weren't considered for selection due to injury. All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said he and his fellow selectors were very happy with the squad and combinations they had come up with. "The form of the players in Investec Super Rugby has been outstanding and, we’re confident that we've picked the right players for the Championship, with some proven combinations and some Test experience being balanced out by the need to continue to grow the newer players in our environment."
Hansen said the number one goal for the All Blacks, clearly, was to win the Rugby Championship but there were also secondary goals supporting that. "One is to re-establish our team, from a leadership and playing point of view. The second goal is to grow the understanding and confidence of our newer players, both on and off the track; and thirdly, we want to play a standard of rugby that we can all be proud of and excited by," he said.
"The quality of the opposition we'll face during the Investec Rugby Championship will require a growth in our physicality, intensity and the standard of our preparation. How well we do that will be reflected in our results. It's going to be a very competitive Championship, which we're all really looking forward to it,” he added.
The makeup of the squad, which will again be captained by number eight Kieran Read, sees 18 forwards selected (three hookers, five props, four locks and six loose forwards) and 14 backs (three halfbacks, three first five-eighths, four midfielders and four outside backs) and has a total of 968 Test caps experience.
The All Blacks squad will assemble on Thursday 4 August for a two-day camp on Auckland's North Shore minus the five Hurricanes who are preparing for the Super Rugby Final. Five additional players will also attend the camp: Damian McKenzie, Seta Tamanivalu and their fellow Chiefs back Anton Lienert-Brown as well as Blues loose forward Steven Luatua, Blues outside back Melani Nanai and Crusaders loose forward Matt Todd.
The All Blacks will re-assemble in Auckland on 11 August to prepare for the opening Test of the Rugby Championship, the Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia in Sydney on Saturday 20 August. The squad will play training matches against Counties Manukau and Northland in the "Game of Three Halves" event at ECOLight Stadium in Pukekohe on Friday 12 August before heading to Sydney on Sunday 14 August.
Seven Changes in Bok Squad
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has included uncapped Malcolm Marx and recalled Oupa Mohoje, Vincent Koch, Juan de Jongh, Francois Hougaard, Bryan Habana and Johan Goosen, in a squad of 31 players for the opening two matches of the 2016 Castle Lager Rugby Championship against Argentina.
Overall, seven changes have been made to the squad that did duty against Ireland in the Castle Lager Incoming Test Series in June. Injured players not considered for selection are Frans Malherbe, Coenie Oosthuizen, Jan Serfontein, Pat Lambie, Handré Pollard, Cobus Reinach and Siya Kolisi.
The Springbok squad will assemble in stages from tomorrow (Sunday, 7 August) in Johannesburg. The nine Emirates Lions players who featured in the Vodacom Super Rugby Final earlier on Saturday will join on Wednesday with the six overseas-based players and two Olympians due to join on Sunday, 14 August.
The remaining squad members assemble tomorrow for a week’s preparations before the full squad of 31 players move camp to Nelspruit (14 August) to continue their preparations for the first Test against Argentina, on 20 August in the Mbombela Stadium.
Coetzee was excited to start preparations for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and to work with the new players in the 31-man Bok squad.
“I’m excited to get Malcolm Marx involved with the Boks on the back of a very strong Vodacom Super Rugby season,” said Coetzee. “It’s also great to welcome back Oupa Mohoje and Vincent Koch to the Boks – both of them have worked incredibly hard and played very well recently.
“Johan Goosen has been in outstanding form for his club in France and gives us a number of options in the backline with his versatility, while Francois Hougaard, Juan de Jongh and Bryan Habana were previously not available because of Springbok Sevens commitments.
“We are fortunate to welcome back an experienced player such as Bryan, who will be able to provide great guidance to our young backs, while Juan and Francois also bring vast experience with them.”
The Bok coach explained the decision not to select the experienced winger JP Pietersen and Willie le Roux: “JP and I recently held discussions and I have decided to give him a much-needed break because he has played a lot of rugby the past three years. Although he has joined English club Leicester, he will still be available for the Springboks. The same applies to Willie, who has just signed with Wasps.
“The other players who were part of the squad in June but have missed out on selection, will continue to be part of the process going forward. We have to build depth because this is a long haul and a tough competition, and they are not out of our plans. It is important that a player such as Scarra Ntubeni, for example, gets playing time in the Currie Cup with his provincial team.
“Losing Pat and Frans to injury is a huge blow as both of them are part of our leadership group. However, Oupa also brings leadership to the squad having captained the SA ‘A’ side earlier year against the England Saxons and also leading the Toyota Cheetahs towards the end of their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign,” added Coetzee.
“We will use our experience and learnings from the Ireland series as the stepping stone for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and keep on growing our depth in our squad and improve on our overall game.”
The selection of prop Trevor Nyakane is subject to medical clearance.
Meanwhile, Coetzee has decided that Chean Roux will take charge of the Bok defensive coaching duties. Roux, who previously assisted the Boks as part of the Mobi Unit on refereeing and technical aspects, fills the vacancy left by Jacques Nienaber who recently left the Mobi Unit and SA Rugby to take up a post at Irish club Munster.
The Springbok squad for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship is:
1. Ruan Combrinck Wing Emirates Lions 2 caps
2. Damian de Allende Centre DHL Stormers 16 caps
3. Lood de Jager Lock Toyota Cheetahs 20 caps
4. Juan de Jongh Centre DHL Stormers 14 caps
5. Faf de Klerk Scrumhalf Emirates Lions 3 caps
6. Pieter-Steph du Toit Lock DHL Stormers 11 caps
7. Eben Etzebeth Lock DHL Stormers 47 caps
8. Johan Goosen Utility Back Racing Metro (France) 6 caps
9. Bryan Habana Wing Toulon (France) 117 caps
10. Francois Hougaard Utility Back Worcester (England) 35 caps
11. Elton Jantjies Flyhalf Emirates Lions 5 caps
12. Steven Kitshoff Prop Bordeaux (France) 1 cap
13. Vincent Koch Prop DHL Stormers/Steval Pumas 2 caps
14. Jaco Kriel Flank Emirates Lions 1 cap
15. Jesse Kriel Centre Vodacom Bulls 12 caps
16. Francois Louw Flank Bath (England) 46 caps
17. Lionel Mapoe Centre Emirates Lions 4 caps
18. Malcolm Marx Hooker Emirates Lions 0 caps
19. Bongi Mbonambi Hooker DHL Stormers 1 cap
20. Teboho Mohoje Flank Toyota Cheetahs 8 caps
21. Franco Mostert Lock Emirates Lions 2 caps
22. Tendai Mtawarira Prop Cell C Sharks 78 caps
23. Lwazi Mvovo Wing Cell C Sharks 17 caps
24. Sikhumbuzo Notshe Flank DHL Stormers 0 caps
25. *Trevor Nyakane Prop Vodacom Bulls 25 caps
26. Rudy Paige Scrumhalf Vodacom Bulls 3 caps
27. Julian Redelinghuys Prop Emirates Lions 5 caps
28. Morne Steyn Flyhalf Stade Francais (France) 61 caps
29. Adriaan Strauss (captain) Hooker Vodacom Bulls 57 caps
30. Duane Vermeulen No 8 Toulon (France) 37 caps
31. Warren Whiteley No 8 Emirates Lions 6 caps
*Subject to medical clearance
Forwards: Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Santiago Garcia Botta, Lucas Noguera Paz, Facundo Bosch, Agustin Creevey, Julian Montoya, Ramiro Herrera, Enrique Pieretto, Matias Alemano, Marcos Kremer, Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Tomas Lezana, Pablo Matera, Javier Ortega Desio, Leonardo Senatore, Facundo Isa.
Backs: Felipe Ezcurra, Tomas Cubelli, Martin Landajo, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Nicolas Sanchez, Santiago Cordero, Manuel Montero, Ramiro Moyano, Gabriel Ascarate, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Juan Martin Hernandez, Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Joaquin Tuculet.
Head Coach Daniel Hourcade, has confirmed the Puma squad to start training ahead of the 2016 Rugby Championship. There is only one squad debutant in Marcos Kremer, a member of U20 team that played in the 2016 World Rugby U20 World Championships in Manchester. For six of the squad it will be their first experience in the Rugby Championship.
The 33-man squad will train in Argentina until Thursday August 11, when a squad of 26 players will depart for South Africa.