Competition to heat up at camp Wallaby

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has saved himself the trouble of making the hard calls – instead, he’ll get his players to do that for him.

There were a few surprises on Thursday when Cheika named his 40-man squad for the opening two games of the Rugby Championship, with the first Test against South Africa on July 18 in Brisbane.

High-profile omissions such as James O’Connor, Karmichael Hunt, Nick Cummins and veteran props Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander find themselves on the outer simply because there are more in-form players ahead of them in the Australian pecking order.

Those who have made it will assemble on Sunday for a week-long training camp on the Sunshine Coast, where they will have to sort it out among themselves as to who takes the field against the Springboks.

“There’s three sets of props, three sets of locks and we’re going to go hard at it in the set piece when we’re up there,” Cheika said.

“We’re going to see who comes out the best and that competition will get us in the right frame of mind for what we’re going to come up against (versus) South Africa, which is going to be a big, nasty pack.

“That’s rugby, isn’t it? It’s about competitive nature and getting stuck into it, competing with your mates and then – once that decision’s been made – joining together to take on the opposition.”

Cheika will rifle through as many combinations as possible over coming weeks as he attempts to solve Australia’s World Cup selection puzzle.

He has shown faith in his Queensland-based players despite the province’s awful Super Rugby campaign, picking eight Reds – including front-rowers James Slipper, James Horwill, James Hanson and Greg Holmes, who returns to the Wallabies after an eight-year absence.

As expected, France-based pair Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell are included – the first two beneficiaries of the Australian Rugby Union’s new eligibility rules for overseas players.

They spoiled the announcement somewhat on Thursday, by tweeting a photo of themselves enjoying a glass of champagne together on the flight over.

“Obviously, we’re pretty excited,” Mitchell said.

“I probably gave it away a little bit, but I’ve read a fair bit … and I guess there was probably a fair indication in the media anyway.

“It was a nice little French bubble to celebrate things and back to business.”

Uncapped quartet Toby Smith, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Rory Arnold and Samu Kerevi are all in line to make their Wallabies debuts, having been the standouts of the preliminary train-on squad that has been together in Brisbane for the past two weeks.

Kerevi, who made his Super Rugby debut last year before blossoming in 2015, is the bolter after the 104kg inside centre had produced a strong Super Rugby season.

The powerful 21-year-old gives the Wallabies added flexibility, should Cheika wish to go with a running option at inside centre instead of another playmaker.

“It’s obviously a different environment for him … (but) some players have that ability of going up as they go through the levels and he seems he’s got that,” Cheika said.

Wallabies squad: Rory Arnold, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Quade Cooper, Dave Dennis, James Hanson, Scott Fardy, Tetera Faulkner, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Matt Giteau, Scott Higginbotham, Greg Holmes, Michael Hooper, Rob Horne, James Horwill, Samu Kerevi, Sekope Kepu, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali’ifano, Stephen Moore, Drew Mitchell, Wycliff Palu, Ben McCalman, Sean McMahon, Dean Mumm, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, James Slipper, Toby Smith, Henry Speight, Matt Toomua, Joe Tomane, Nic White.

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