The inclusion of the exciting Israel Folau and exclusion of Quade Cooper were the two major highlights when Robbie Deans announced his provisional 25-man Australian squad for the forthcoming British and Irish Lions tour.
Folau has been taking the Super 15 by storm since his switch from rugby league; his vibrant attacking play has been one of the stand out features of the Waratahs game.
There are two other uncapped players in the 25-man squad, Christian Lealiifano and Ben Mowen. Lealiifano will compete with Berrick Barnes and James Oâ€™Conner for the number ten shirt in the absence of Quade Cooper.
Cooper has had a rather tempestuous relationship with Robbie Deans, describing the Australian team environment as â€˜toxicâ€™ last year, and appears to have paid the price.
However Deans offered Cooper reassurance, saying: “People will say that’s the end for Quade but that’s not the case.
“I’ve selected him on 38 occasions. He’s had a lot of faith and support from me. To suggest otherwise is nonsense.”
Another small glimmer of hope for the Queensland Red is that Deans has announced that he will be adding six more players to the squad on the 11th June, giving Cooper some time to prove himself, including a match for the Reds against the Lions on the 8th June.
Another player who is missing but will hope to prove himself in time for the 11th June is Kurtley Beale.
The Melbourne Rebel has been involved in a series of disciplinary breaches involving alcohol and has checked himself into a rehab clinic, no date has been set for his return.
Speaking about Bealeâ€™s chances, Deans said: “The key thing for Kurtley Beale is his welfare at this stage, he’s taken the initiative to put himself through a rehabilitation process and that’s a great step.â€
“He’s got a chance (of playing) but clearly he has to get through that process and then it will be a case of monitoring his physical and mental state and we’ll go from there. It’s possible, but it depends on so many factors that we’re better not to guess at this stage.”
“It’s taken a lot of courage to enter the process and it will be emotionally draining. He has been able, to some extent, been able to maintain his physical state but clearly it will be a watching brief.”
Provisional Australian Squad for the British and Irish Lions Tour:
Forwards: Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Liam Gill, Scott Higginbotham, Dave Dennis, Ben Mowen, Rob Simmons, James Horwill, Sitaleki Timani, James Slipper, Ben Alexander, Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, Saia Faingaa
Backs: Israel Folau, Digby Ioane, Joe Tomane, Nick Cummins, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Christian Lealiifano, Berrick Barnes, James O’Connor, Will Genia