Returning duo a boost for touring Wallabies
SEVEN first-year Wallabies have been included in the 30-man squad to tour Europe, which has been bolstered by the return of flanker David Pocock and hooker Stephen Moore from injury.
Queensland Reds hooker James Hanson, who made his Test debut during last weekend's 18-18 draw against New Zealand in Brisbane, has won the third hooking berth ahead of injured teammate Saia Fainga'a, who broke a bone in his hand at training in the lead-up to that match.
While Fainga'a was expected to recover in time to participate on the tour, coach Robbie Deans said Hanson's recent game-time, which included both his Test debut and significant game-time at club level for Queensland University, helped to win him the nod.
The fact that Moore was returning after an injury break, having not played since the Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland on August 25, also played a part in the decision.
"We had to have absolute certainty around at least two of our hookers," Deans said. "With Stephen also coming off a period out of the game, we couldn't afford to head away having potential concerns around two of our three hookers."
Although neither Pocock (knee) or Moore (hamstring) had recent match fitness under their belts, Deans said both had proved their readiness to tour, although Pocock is likely to miss the first Test against France.
Berrick Barnes also returns after recovering from the lung injury he suffered against South Africa at Pretoria last month, while Sekope Kepu and Sitaleki Timani are also included after the injuries they sustained last weekend in Brisbane proved less significant than was initially feared.
Flanker Scott Higginbotham is a casualty from the Brisbane Test, however, suspension rubbing him out for the opening two Tests of the tour against France and England.
With No 8 Wycliff Palu having only recently returned from injury, and Pocock also in that state, Deans says the Wallabies couldn't afford to carry a loose forward who wouldn't be available for the first two weeks of the trip.
Higginbotham will be on stand-by to join the tour, if any injuries crop up, once he is available to play again.
The tour begins in Paris where Australia will shoot for a record-equalling sixth consecutive win against Les Bleus.
Game two will be against England at Twickenham, with the third clash against Italy in Florence.
The tour wraps up against Wales in Cardiff where the Wallabies have prevailed on their past three visits.
Wallabies squad: ACT Brumbies: Ben Alexander, Pat McCabe, Stephen Moore, David Pocock; NSW Waratahs: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Drew Mitchell, Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Paddy Ryan, Sitaleki Timani; Queensland Reds: Anthony Fainga'a, Liam Gill, James Hanson, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane, Radike Samo, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Ben Tapaui; Melbourne Rebels: Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps; Western Force: Nick Cummins, Nathan Sharpe, Brett Sheehan