Wallabies go for youth
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
WHEN Wallaby coach John Connolly announced the 59-man national train-on squad yesterday, a slightly clearer picture of who is likely to play in the upcoming Australia 'A' clash in Coffs Harbour was drawn.
Among the uncapped players included in the squad and likely to play against Samoa in the June 2 IRB Pacific Nations Cup clash are promising teenage inside backs Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper and rugby league convert centre Ryan Cross.
Also likely to play at BCU International Stadium in three and a half weeks time will be the Western Force's backline sensation of the 2007 Super 14 season, Cameron Shepherd, as well as a prop many consider to be the answer to the Wallabies scrum problems, Queensland Red Rod Blake.
What also made the selection picture clearer was the names that were left out of the squad.
Reds' stalwart David Croft and Western Force duo Tai McIsaac and Matt Henjak were notable omissions when Connolly named the train-on squad.
Long rated in the top three openside breakaways along with George Smith and Phil Waugh, Croft failed to make the extended squad to prepare for the Wallabies' pre- World Cup Test schedule and the Australia A team matches.
McIsaac played eight Tests at hooker last year but couldn't get a look in for the squad behind Adam Freier, Jeremy Paul, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Stephen Moore.
Once rated the likely successor to George Gregan at halfback, Henjak wasn't ranked in the top five halfbacks in the country, with Gregan, Sam Cordingley and NSW trio Josh Valentine, Brett Sheehan and Josh Holmes all picked ahead of him.
Despite coming second last in the Super 14, the NSW Waratahs gained the biggest representation in the train-on squad with 19 players while the fifth- placed Brumbies were next with 17.
The Force got 14 players in while hapless wooden spooners the Queensland Reds, still reeling from their record 92-3 loss to the Bulls, got only nine in.
Reds coach Eddie Jones has consistently nominated Croft as one of his best players in a struggling outfit, but his World Cup hopes were dented when he missed out behind the likes of Julian Salvi from the Brumbies and Western Force young gun David Pocock.
Others to miss out were Reds league convert Clinton Schifcofske and fellow fullback Peter Hewat.
The Australia 'A' clash with Samoa on June 2 takes on special significance this year as players on the fringe of the Test squad try desperately to gain selection for the World Cup being held in France during September.
The selected players will train in their home states until a squad of 40 is named for a three-day training camp beginning in Sydney on May 15.
A Wallabies squad of 30 will then be selected for the opening domestic Test against Wales in Sydney on May 26.