Aussies focus on scrums

Australia have included three young props among nine uncapped players in a 33-man squad for next month’s Tests against England.

Props Rodney Blake, Benn Robinson and Guy Shepherdson are selected in coach John Connolly’s first squad since replacing Eddie Jones at the helm.

Captain George Gregan said Australia wanted to improve the woeful scrum that undermined their displays last year. “There will be a strong focus on our set piece,” said Gregan. “(We want to be) very competent and become a tough side in those aspects.”

The other uncapped players in the squad are forwards Wycliff Palu and Tai McIsaac, and backs Gene Fairbanks, Sam Norton-Knight, Josh Valentine and Cameron Shepherd.

Matt Giteau will be unavailable for the first Test against England on 11 June because of injury, leaving Connolly with a problem at inside centre. “I’ve said throughout that we would pick the squad on form. There were a few unlucky omissions but we feel the squad we’ve selected is the strongest possible one,” said Connolly.

“It’s a young squad but there’s a good mixture of youth and experience. You could suggest that we’ve picked a squad with a view to the future, but the supporters expect the national team to perform well in every Test and rightfully so.”

The second Test against England is in Melbourne on 17 June. Australia have lost eight of their last nine Tests.

Australia squad:
Adam Ashley-Cooper, Al Baxter, Rodney Blake, Mark Chisholm, Sam Cordingley, Rocky Elsom, Gene Fairbanks, Scott Fava, Adam Freier, Mark Gerrard, George Gregan (captain), Daniel Heenan, Greg Holmes, Alex Kanaar, Stephen Larkham, Chris Latham, Tai McIsaac, Stirling Mortlock, Sam Norton-Knight, Wycliff Palu, Jeremy Paul, Clyde Rathbone, Benn Robinson, Mat Rogers, Nathan Sharpe, Cameron Shepherd, Guy Shepherdson, George Smith, Scott Staniforth, Lote Tuqiri, Josh Valentine, Daniel Vickerman, Phil Waugh.