Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika named his 31-man squad for next month’s World Cup on Friday morning, and the announcement will have brought with it a mix of joy and dejection for a variety of players across Australia.
Some players were always certainties to be etched into Cheika’s final team sheet, others were destined to be left at home.
While these players will be filled with contrasting emotions as their fate over the next six weeks has been sealed, it’s those who sat on the cusp of the side who will be really feeling the jubilation and disappointment of making or missing the cut.
Subsequently, Cheika’s squad announcement has produced plenty of winners and losers as the Wallabies prepare to challenge for a third World Cup title in Japan.
He may have only played in two tests since rejoining the side at the end of last year following a 27-month absence, but veteran utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper will be heading to his fourth World Cup next month.
With 118 tests to his name, he is Australia’s third most-capped player of all-time, and it’s clear that – despite his ageing body – Cheika and his fellow selectors value the vast experience and versatility that the 35-year-old offers.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is uncapped 19-year-old utility back Jordan Petaia.
Ruled out for the majority of the Reds’ Super Rugby season after picking up a serious foot injury against the Crusaders in early March, the electric teenager has rebounded surprisingly to earn a shock call into the World Cup squad.
He becomes the youngest Wallaby ever to do so, with his positional flexibility, sublime physical attributes and limitless potential enough to win the nod of approval from the selectors.
As Australia’s best player, Pocock was absolute certainty to make it – provided that he was fit.
However, the star loose forward has been dogged by injuries all this year, which put his place on the plane to Japan in jeopardy in the lead-up to the squad announcement.
That hasn’t stopped the 31-year-old – who hasn’t played a test this year – from being included by Cheika and co, though, so expect him to wreak havoc at the breakdown once he completes his prolonged recovery.
Also fortunate that the selectors have opted for four locks, which is one more than what they took to England four years ago.
The Wallabies will look to utilise his hefty experience at the tournament, where he should notch up his 100th test match.
Has just three tests to his name since his international debut two years ago, and is yet to start for the Wallabies.
Such inexperience, which could be attributed to a bad run of injuries, may have been viewed as a hinderance to Australia’s hooking stocks, but the Melbourne Rebels youngster has been shown faith as he edges out veteran Tatafu Polota-Nau as the squad’s third-choice rake.
Named in the initial 34-man Rugby Championship squad, but excluded from the Wallabies’ refined Bledisloe Cup side, Dempsey has made an unlikely comeback from a shoulder injury to squeeze the likes of Pete Samu, Liam Wright and Rob Valetini out of the selection frame.
Continue reading below…
The Brumbies fullback was in scintillating form for the Canberra-based club throughout Super Rugby, but the selection of Bernard Foley as a third-string first-five means there is no room for Banks among the outside backs.
Instead, Kurtley Beale and Dane Haylett-Petty will share duties in the No. 15 jersey, with Banks’ solid performance against the Springboks in Johannesburg not enough to secure him a place in the team.
Is one of five players invited to a 10-day training camp in New Caledonia, which indicates he will be one of the first to be called upon should injury strike.
Unlucky to miss out to Simmons as the fourth-choice lock.
Some may have chosen Jones due to his ability to cover the side of the scrum in addition to the second row, but having 92 fewer caps than Simmons appears to be the 28-year-old’s downfall.
Will join Banks in the train-on squad in New Caledonia.
Was named in the Rugby Championship squad, but was culled from the trimmed Bledisloe Cup squad, which is harsh for the Rebels flyer, who was in good form for the Melbourne franchise this year.
Able to cover wing and fullback, Maddocks wasn’t played in either match against Argentina or South Africa, and isn’t part of the train-on squad in New Caledonia, suggesting he’s fallen some way down the national pecking order.
Signed with the Leicester Tigers in the English Premiership, Polota-Nau’s 89 test appearances made him eligible for selection, and it was that experience which was his main selling point for the third hooker spot.
There was speculation as to whether there would even be a third hooker position after the Wallabies only named two at the last World Cup, but the third hooking role has surprisingly gone to Uelese, which should bring the curtain down on Polota-Nau’s international career.
As a result, Powell is the omission from the Rugby Championship squad, which will be a hard pill to swallow for the 25-year-old, who hasn’t featured in national colours at all this year.
Australia’s core propping quartet of Taniela Tupou, Allan Alaalatoa, Scott Sio, James Slipper and Sekope Kepu have all received extensive game time throughout the Rugby Championship, so it seemed inevitable that all five would make the final cut.
That will still be a dagger for 24-test Robertson, who is probably the next cab off the rank and would have considered himself a good chance to travel to the World Cup.
In other news:
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.