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Emirates Western Force forwards David Pocock and Nathan Sharpe have been selected in the 30-man Wallabies squad for the inaugural Rugby Championship announced today.
Sharpe’s decision to stay on for the Rugby Championship provides an opportunity to chase down George Smith as the second most capped Wallaby.
June’s third match against Wales was the 105th time that the 34-year-old has worn the Australian jersey in Test matches, five astern of the 110-appearances made by Smith.
Sharpe is available to Australia for a further seven Tests through until the end of the three-Test Bledisloe Cup series.
Pocock, who was christened Emirates Western Force Player of the Year for the first time on Saturday night, will captain the side.
Emirates Western Force outside back Nick Cummins, who was crowned the club’s Members MVP on Saturday, missed out on the final side, after being included in the train-on squad over the past fortnight. All of the selected backs were involved, either playing or training, during the June Test window.
The returns of Drew Mitchell and Radike Samo, the selection of Australian Under-20 captains Liam Gill and Jake Schatz, and the inclusion for the first time of Kane Douglas, are further highlights of the squad.
Mitchell and Samo both missed the June Tests, where Australia was upset by Scotland before clean sweeping the Six Nations champions 3-0 in the Castrol EDGE Wales Tour, but worked their way back into the Test arena.
The pair finished the Fx Pro Super Rugby season well, before impressing in training at the recent National Training camps which wrapped up last week.
Samo re-enters after a shoulder injury blighted his Super Rugby season.
The three new uncapped players named today include two of the most recent Australian Under-20 captains: Liam Gill, who skippered the side at the World Cup in South Africa this year, and his predecessor from the class of 2010: Jake Schatz.
They, along with the hard working NSW Waratahs lock Kane Douglas, earn calls ups after featuring at each of the two recent training camps.
The selection of the 122kg second rower, plus that the 120kg Sitaleki Timani, adds size and power to the Australian set-piece.
The two young locks, along with third-season Wallaby second rower Rob Simmons, will be mentored by Test centurion Sharpe.
The squad features an 18-forward, 12-back split, with a wide degree of versatility among the backline options chosen.
The inaugural Rugby Championship, which introduces Argentina to the annual Southern Hemisphere competition for the first time, will run over six weekends between August 18 and October 6.
Eight of the players included today will be on debut in the annual Southern Hemisphere competition, having not appeared previously in the Rugby Championship’s forerunner, the Tri Nations. Four of them are uncapped.
Australia won the final Tri Nations last year, a decade after the Wallabies had won the second of their three tournament titles in 2001.
A number of injured players, including Emirates Western Force forward Ben McCalman, were unavailable for today’s selection but will come back into contention during the tournament once they complete their rehabilitation.
The Wallabies squad for the 2012 Rugby Championship Test Series is:
David Pocock (c)
Emirates Western Force