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The St.George Reds Super Rugby Final victory has been rewarded with 15 players selected in the Wallabies 40-man squad for their upcoming Test against Samoa and for the 2011 Tri Nations series.
Of the strong contingent four players are uncapped Wallabies in Rod Davies, James Hanson, Luke Morahan and Beau Robinson.
The enlarged squad has been named with one eye to the upcoming Rugby World Cup later in the year, where 30 players will represent Australia at the tournament.
For this reason, a number of players have been included in this initial naming who are not immediately available due to injuries sustained during Super Rugby.
“The expansion of Super Rugby and this year’s Rugby World Cup has condensed the schedule significantly which has placed an even greater importance on making sure that we have covered all selection-related eventualities, as there isn’t a lot of time between matches,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said/
“To that end, we want the guys to be playing so, as we have done in previous years, we will be looking to have as many of the players playing as is possible by releasing them to their clubs where we can.”
The selection of Beau Robinson, Hanson, Morahan and Davies recognises their contributions to the Reds’ charge to the top rung of Super Rugby, which was completed by last night’s gritty 18-13 win over the Crusaders in the final.
However the ‘Comeback of the Year’ unquestionably belongs to the 2004 Wallaby Radike Samo, who has revitalised his career after joining the Reds at the tail end of last year’s Super Rugby competition as an injury reinforcement.
The ex-Fiji Under-19 rep, who played six Tests for Australia in 2004 after sharing in the Brumbies Super Rugby title earlier that year, left the country in 2006 and only returned after stints playing in both France and Japan.
Samo was plucked from semi-retirement in Sydney club rugby last year to bolster the Reds for their final two matches, and was rewarded for his deeds then with a fulltime contract for this season.
Today’s selection, which comes a day after his 35th birthday, adds arguably the most remarkable chapter yet to a colourful career which has seen Samo ply his trade as both a loose forward and a second row in Super Rugby, and in his younger days in club rugby, as a wing!
“His performances speak for themselves,” Deans says.
“Seven years after he first played Test matches, he has got into good shape physically and has shown that he still has an appetite for rugby at this level.”
Sydney fans have the opportunity to meet the Wallabies when the team holds a Fan day around its season-opener against Samoa at ANZ Stadium next Sunday.
The match is the fifth Test to be played between Australia and Samoa with the day also providing the opportunity for a reunion of the first Wallabies side to play the Pacific Islanders, during the 1991 Rugby World Cup tournament, which Australia went on to win.
The Tri Nations Series opens six days after the Samoa Test, with Sydney again the venue as South Africa appears in the harbour city for the first time since 2007.
The opening two weekends of August see the Wallabies in action in Auckland and Durban, before the Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cup finale against the All Blacks pits the trans-Tasman rivals against each other in Brisbane for the first time since 2008.
Although the Tri Nations has this year been abridged to a home-and-away round, Deans expects the tournament to be no less intense, even with September’s Rugby World Cup hovering in the background.
Australia hasn’t won the Tri Nations since 2001, and last held the Bledisloe Cup in 2002, although it recaptured the Mandela Challenge Plate off South Africa last year.
The Wallabies have won their most recent matches with both South Africa and New Zealand, with both wins being claimed outside of Australia after a drama-filled 41-39 win over the Springboks at Bloemfontein during last year’s tournament, and the equally dramatic 26-24 win over the All Blacks at Hong Kong during the Bledisloe Cup Test which opened the last Spring Tour.
16 FEBRUARY 2019