Eddie Jones has made selection shocks in his first Wallabies squad for 2023 with Waratahs young gun Max Jorgensen and Rebels fly-half Carter Gordon making their way into the squad at the expense of Reds stars James O’Connor, Tate McDermott and Harry Wilson.
Naming his 33-man squad ahead of his first training camp in April, Jones named six uncapped players with Queensland Reds back Josh Flook joining young Brumbies prop Blake Schoupp and halfback Ryan Lonergan, and Rebels Backrower Brad Wilkin while son of former Wallaby Michael Lynagh, Tom Lynagh, wasn’t considered due to injury.
Schoupp’s selection caps off a meteoric rise in 2023 making his debut for the Brumbies earlier this year after he failed to make the Waratahs squad after years in Sydney’s Shute Shield competition. He joins 11 of his teammates who make up the bulk of the squad with just four players from the Reds making the cut, while nine from the Waratahs, six from the Rebels and one from the Force will travel to the Gold Coast.
While Lonergan joins teammate Nic White as the only two half-backs selected in the squad with McDermott and Waratahs’ Jake Gordon overlooked by the new coach, while in another surprise omission, Brumbies playmaker Noah Lolesio failed to earn a call-up.
Jones likened his opening training camp to the Formula One saying he wanted to bring in new standards and new expectations.
“Every pre-season testing in Formula One is a fresh start,” said Jones. “New ideas, new cars, new drivers, new support staff. It’s the same for us.”
“This is a new squad, with new standards and new expectations for a new challenge. I hope the players who have this first chance understand the privilege, have their tyres pumped up and they’re ready to go.”
Wilkin’s selection comes off the back of a breakout 2022 season that included an impressive showing with Australia A with his rise continuing this year with the Rebels. It’s just rewards for a player who has struggled through several ACL injuries over the past five years.
Suliasi Vunivalu has also done enough to impress Jones, making his way into the squad alongside Jordan Petaia and Fraser McReight with Alex Mafi and Hunter Paisami left out due to injuries. Vunivalu’s selection means Brumbies high-flying wing Corey Toole has missed out despite his impressive try-scoring ability.
Jones said he’d been disappointed by Super Rugby results so far this year, determined to bring back a winning mindset to Australian rugby.
“It’s no secret what I’ve been looking for, and in the players selected for this first camp they’ve delivered on work rate, effort and intent,” Jones said.
“What they haven’t delivered on in Super Rugby is winning, particularly against New Zealand teams. Competitive doesn’t cut it. We will build a winner’s mindset in the Wallabies players, and we will win games. That will come from confidence and belief that comes through effort and sacrifice.
“I’ve said it a million times. We have the talent in Australia but not the team. This first camp and this first squad is the first step to building a winning team.”
The new coach also signaled there will likely be changes in the lead-up to the World Cup.
“This is not the squad for Rugby World Cup. It’s the first squad for the first camp. If you are in it, the challenge is to stay in it. If you are not in it, how do you get in it? Players select themselves.
“Going to win a Bledisloe Cup and a Rugby World Cup with the Wallabies is a rare privilege in a player’s career. Thousands try, few succeed.
“We saw a first-class game last night between the Brumbies and Waratahs with players really working hard for each other on both sides. It was encouraging. All I’ll say is, let’s see more of that and let’s see it every week. No excuses. Make it impossible for me to leave you out.”
Wallabies camp squad: Allan Alaalatoa, Ben Donaldson, Pone Fa’amausili, Josh Flook, Lalakai Foketi, Nick Frost, Langi Gleeson, Carter Gordon, Ned Hanigan, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper, Jed Holloway, Len Ikitau, Max Jorgensen, Andrew Kellaway, Lachlan Lonergan, Ryan Lonergan, Fraser McReight, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Cadeyrn Neville, Jordan Petaia, David Porecki, Tom Robertson, Pete Samu, Blake Schoupp, James Slipper, Darcy Swain, Jordan Uelese, Rob Valetini, Suliasi Vunivalu, Nic White, Brad Wilkin, Tom Wright.
Rehab Group: Angus Bell Rob Leota, Taniela Tupou
Overseas based players joining via Zoom: Richie Arnold, Tom Banks (TBC), Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley, Marika Koroibete, Samu Kerevi (TBC), Will Skelton.