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Forgotten Wallabies wing on Rennie's radar after Koroibete withdrawal

By Alex McLeod

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A former Wallabies wing could be in line to make his first test appearance in five years following the withdrawal of Marika Koroibete from Australia’s end-of-year tour squad.

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Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie announced on Sunday that Koroibete, and prop Pone Fa’amausili, won’t tour with the Australian national side to Japan, Scotland, England and Wales due to family reasons and a calf injury, respectively.

The loss of Koroibete is particularly significant given his status as one of the key Wallabies players, as well as the fact that he has now played his last test as an Australian-based player before joining the Saitama Wild Knights in Japan on a four-year deal.

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However, Rugby Australia’s [RA’s] recent relaxation of the Giteau Law – which has enabled the return of Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi, Sean McMahon, Will Skelton, Rory Arnold and Tolu Latu this season – could allow Koroibete, who has 42 test caps to his name, to be part of future Wallabies squads.

For the time being, though, Rennie will be forced to make do with Koroibete’s absence as he looks for replacements from within his current squad, which has now shrunk to 35 players.

“Marika didn’t play the last game [against Argentina],” Rennie said from his side’s training base in Oita on Sunday ahead of this weekend’s clash against Japan.

“Jordy [Jordan Petaia] got a start, it gave Tom Wright a sniff. Off the bench, he played really well, so it is a position we’ve got a bit of depth in.

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“Marika’s an unbelievable player, massive work ethic and physicality, so big shoes to fill, but we’ve got good depth there.”

That hasn’t stopped Rennie from searching abroad for potential replacements to fill the void left by the 29-year-old.

RA’s new-look eligibility rules could prove to be helpful in Rennie’s quest to bring in extra players overseas as he pointed to three-test Bristol Bears wing Luke Morahan as a possibility to link up with the Wallabies squad in the United Kingdom.

It has been almost a decade since Morahan, the former Reds and Western Force flyer, made his debut for the Wallabies in Scotland’s famous 9-6 victory over the Australians in Newcastle in 2012.

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Morahan went on to make a further two outings for the Wallabies, both of which came in 2016 against England in Melbourne and France in Paris.

The following year, the 31-year-old relocated to England and has gone on to establish himself as a regular at Bristol under the tutelage of Pat Lam.

Given his fleeting appearances in the test arena, his age and the conditions of the Giteau Law, a test rugby comeback may have seemed beyond the realm of possibility for Morahan, but that could very well be on the cards under the current circumstances.

Having already revealed in recent weeks that he has kept an eye on Morahan’s progress in English and European club rugby, Rennie again outlined that the veteran speedster remains a chance at being called into the squad.

Working in Morahan’s favour is the fact that Rennie has ruled calling up Australian-based players as he made note of his commitment to providing those he omitted from his touring squad a full Super Rugby pre-season to continue their development.

“Yeah, possibly,” Rennie said when asked if Morahan could join the squad following Saturday’s test against Japan.

“Obviously we were watching him, as we’ve been looking at lots of players around the globe, so we’ll see how we come out of this tour.

“We’ve made a real commitment to the guys who were left behind to go straight on leave and come back in November to have a decent off-season, and we’re very focused on maintaining that, which will mean we won’t look back at home to try and bring someone over.”

It wouldn’t be the first time Rennie has called on an exiled player for international duty this year, as he gave Cooper and McMahon their first tests in four years against the Springboks and Los Pumas, respectively, during the Rugby Championship.

Similarly, McMahon’s Suntory Sungoliath teammate Kerevi made his first test appearance since the 2019 World Cup against the All Blacks in Perth, a feat set to be matched by French-based pair Arnold and Latu on the upcoming tour.

Skelton, meanwhile, will join 38-year-old prop Greg Holmeswho became the oldest Australian international since World War Two against Los Pumas earlier this month – in making his first outing in test rugby since 2016 in the coming weeks.

Regardless of whether or not Morahan is called into the squad, Rennie maintained that a decision on who will replace Koroibete, or Fa’amausili, won’t be made until the Wallabies arrive in the UK.

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Forgotten Wallabies wing on Rennie's radar after Koroibete withdrawal

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