Rugby

Reds duo, Pone left out as Tahs cult hero named in 44-man Wallabies training squad to start World Cup year

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A month after Charlie Gamble declared he “bleeds blue” and supports the Wallabies, the New Zealand-born back-rower has been selected in Dave Rennie’s 44-man Australian training squad.

The 26-year-old is the only fresh face in the squad, which sees Kurtley Beale and Harry Wilson included after controversially missing last year’s Spring Tour.

The group will gather on the Gold Coast on Monday for a four-day training camp, which will be used to give players clarity about the World Cup year ahead.

“What’s exciting for us is that over the past three years we’ve created genuine depth and competition of places,” Rennie said.

“Of the 44 players all bar two have worn the gold jersey over the past three years and there’s also several fringe players who still have an opportunity to force their way into the next camp through strong Super Rugby form.

“We’ll use the four days to make sure all players head back to their franchises with a clear understanding on what will give them the best chance of representing their country in a World Cup year.”

Reds duo, Pone left out as Tahs cult hero named in 44-man Wallabies training squad to start World Cup year

Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie included just two uncapped players in his 44-man training squad ahead of the 2023 Super Rugby season. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Undoubtedly questions will be asked about the coaching structure moving forward, with Scott Wisemantel’s departure as attack coach rocking the rugby community.

With the Wallabies’ first Test of the year not until July Rugby Australia don’t need to rush a decision on his replacement, but the destabilising nature of his sudden exit has left many questioning the unfortunate timing of his departure just nine months out from the World Cup in France.

Indeed, Wisemantel was the only coach in Rennie’s team who had coached in a World Cup and the long-time attack coach had spent years coaching in France at Clermont, Lyon and most recently with Jake White at Montpellier.

NRL recruit Suliasi Vunivalu, James O’Connor and Pone Fa’amuasili are the three major exclusions from a settled, though injury-ravaged squad.

Of the trio, Fa’amuasili’s omission is the most surprising given his hulking physique and the fact Taniela Tupou is in a race against the clock to be fit for the World Cup after his devastating ruptured Achilles injury last November, which will see him miss the entire Super Rugby season.

But Fa’amuasili’s selection could prove to be the masterstroke needed to ignite the flame inside, with the massive tight-head prop not doing himself any favours since switching to rugby.

The fortunes of Vunivalu and O’Connor will likely come down to form and injury in 2023, with the Queensland Reds duo falling out of favour with the Wallabies throughout The Rugby Championship.

Pone Fa'amausili of the Wallabies reacts after losing The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Marvel Stadium on September 15, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

Pone Fa’amausili has been left out of the Wallabies’ training squad ahead of the 2023 Super Rugby season. Photo: Morgan Hancock/Getty Images

Tupou, lock Matt Philip, versatile forward Rob Leota, and Japan-based duo Samu Kerevi and Quade Cooper have each been included in the squad despite major injuries which will be seen them miss their respective seasons.

Kerevi and Cooper were the only overseas played selected, but that was because their injuries ruled them out of their seasons in Japan.

While 44 players have been named for the training camp, Rennie will have to trim the squad down to 33 for the World Cup.

The fat will be cut right across the entire squad, with seven props selected, five locks, 10 back-rowers, four halfbacks, five centres and seven outside backs.

In particular, the back-row will be close to halved by the time Rennie settles on his squad in early August.

Only three hookers were named, with returning Waratahs rake Tolu Latu, who was one of the Wallabies’ best at the 2019 World Cup, not included.

Cooper, Ben Donaldson and Noah Lolesio are the three playmakers in the squad, with no room for Tane Edmed despite going close to touring the Northern Hemisphere with the Wallabies.

Waratahs star Charlie Gamble has been included in his first Wallabies squad. Photo: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

Gamble is one of two uncapped players in the squad, with Brumbies back-up halfback Ryan Lonergan also included.

It continues an incredible rise for the former Crusaders junior, with Gamble playing Subbies rugby in Sydney before catching the eye of a number of people involved in the NSW Waratahs set-up.

Gamble’s selection comes as no surprise, with Rennie previously noting that the back-rower becomes available to play for the Wallabies midway through the 2023 Super Rugby season.

Capable of playing anywhere in the back-row, Gamble faces a challenge to start for the Waratahs in 2023 with Michael Hooper set to wear the No.7 jersey. But his physicality and on-ball presence will likely see him push for a start alongside the former Wallabies captain in Darren Coleman’s backrow.

In an interview with ESPN ahead of the Christmas break, Gamble confirmed his desire to wear the Wallabies jersey.

“The first couple of years I was still a bit of a supporter of back home, but I owe everything to Australia and to this club here, they gave me this opportunity and I’ll be forever grateful for it,” Gamble told ESPN.

“I bleed blue now, I support the Wallabies, it is what it is.”

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