SYDNEY — Veteran hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and six uncapped rookies feature in Michael Cheika’s 36-man Wallabies train-on squad for this month’s Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener against the All Blacks.
Rested from the June series against Ireland after returning from a stint in the English Premiership, Polota-Nau is back in the mix to earn an 83rd Test cap when Australia face New Zealand in Sydney on August 18.
The 33-year-old is among four hookers in the squad and fighting former NSW Waratahs teammate Tolu Latu, Queensland Reds’ incumbent Australian No.2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Brumbies young gun Folau Faingaa for a Bledisloe berth.
Melbourne Rebels’ 18-year-old Jordan Petaia was one of the six rookies named in Cheika’s squad on Sunday after lighting up Leichhardt Oval on Friday night in a dazzling trial display.
Petaia and Rebels centre Billy Meakes add cover to the midfield after injuries ruled out Test regulars Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi.
Brumbies star Tom Banks, who shone at fullback in Friday’s trial, Faingaa and Rebels pair Jack Maddocks and Jermaine Ainsley are the others in line to earn their maiden Test caps.
Captain Michael Hooper will continue his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury that he suffered in the final Test against Ireland while back-rower Pete Samu will re-join his Wallabies teammates this week after helping the Crusaders win a record-extending ninth Super Rugby title on Saturday night.
The squad will be revised after the camp in Cessnock this week with the Wallabies to reconvene next Sunday at a fan day in Blacktown in Sydney’s west.
WALLABIES TRAIN-ON SQUAD
Backs: Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Jack Maddocks, Billy Meakes, Sefa Naivalu, Jordan Petaia, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell, Curtis Rona, Matt Toomua.
Forwards: Jermaine Ainsley*, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Folau Faingaa*, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (capt), Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Pete Samu, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Caleb Timu, Lukhan Tui, Taniela Tupou.
* denotes uncapped