Mitchell and Samo back for Wallabies
Drew Mitchell and Radike Samo were recalled Tuesday for the inaugural Rugby Championship and there were three uncapped players in a Wallabies squad that coach Robbie Deans said provided depth.
Injuries saw Mitchell and Samo miss the June Tests when Australia were beaten by Scotland before clean-sweeping Wales 3-0, but the pair finished the Super 15 season well, and impressed at recent national training camps.
Mitchell is back after ankle and hamstring injuries and will be a welcome addition to the Wallabies, with only five players scoring more Australian Test tries than the 28-year-old, who has been capped 58 times.
Samo is fit again after a shoulder injury that blighted his Super 15 campaign. The widely travelled loose forward made a remarkable Test return in 2011 after a seven-year absence and ended that year with a Tri-Nations title.
The three uncapped players include two of the most recent Australian under-20 captains — Liam Gill, who skippered the side at this year’s junior World Cup in South Africa, and his predecessor Jake Schatz.
Hard-working NSW Waratahs lock Kane Douglas also earns a call-up.
The inclusion of Gill, plus June newcomer Michael Hooper from the ACT Brumbies, bolsters the Wallabies’ back-up resources behind premier openside flanker and captain David Pocock.
“There’s an injection of players in areas where we historically haven’t had a lot of depth, openside being an obvious one which is great for those two blokes (Gill and Hooper),” Deans told reporters.
“Michael Hooper has had a taste and introduction and Liam fulfilled his obligations to the (Australian) under-20s before we involved him in this instance.
“It’s good to have those two points of enthusiasm added to the group.” The selections of second-rower Douglas and Sitaleki Timani add size and power to the Australian set-pieces. The two young locks, along with Rob Simmons, will be mentored by Test centurion Nathan Sharpe.
The 34-year-old’s decision to postpone retirement and stay on for the Rugby Championship provides an opportunity to chase down George Smith as the second most-capped Wallaby, and Deans praised the veteran.
“Sharpey is probably playing the best rugby of his career, to be honest,” he said. “It becomes very clear when the end looms, and he’s enjoying his rugby.” The Rugby Championship, which introduces Argentina for the first time to the annual southern hemisphere competition that includes New Zealand and South Africa, will run over six weekends from August 18 to October 6.
Australia squad Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Kurtley Beale, Quade Cooper, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Anthony Faingaa, Saia Faingaa, Will Genia, Liam Gill, Mike Harris, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper, Rob Horne, Digby Ioane, Sekope Kepu, Drew Mitchell, Stephen Moore, Nick Phipps, David Pocock (capt), Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Radike Samo, Jake Schatz, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Sitaleki Timani, Nic White