Wallabies coach Robbie Deans omitted Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale in his initial 25-player squad for the three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions.
Brumbies in-form fullback Jesse Mogg was another surprise omission although he, like Cooper and Beale, could still be named in the expanded squad of 31, which will be confirmed on June 11.
Veteran flank George Smith and David Pocock are among those not considered because of injury.
Deans has picked former Rugby League sensation and Aussie Rules player Israel Folau.
Deans said Cooper needed to improve on attack and in defence.
‘Test rugby is another level from Super rugby and we would like to see Quade defend in the front line; we would like him to assert himself physically in the game, because that’s an element you can’t avoid at Test level,’ said Deans. ‘It’s the whole game. Assertiveness goes both ways in attack and [defence]; that’s what we’d like to see particularly in that outing [between the Reds and Lions on June 8].’
Deans told the media Cooper’s omission was a rugby decision.
‘[Personality] doesn’t come into it; we’re here to select what we believe what is the best mix and combination to win this series,’said Deans, who praised the ability of James O’Connor to pose a threat at flyhalf.
‘He’s a bloke that traumatises defences, he keeps the attack very square, which provides opportunity for the channels around him, he said. ‘None of our five-eighths have had consistent time at international level in the last couple years, that’s been an element of frustration for us, but the great thing is we’ve got a number who are capable of playing at that level and it’s just a matter of identifying the ones that we believe will serve the team’s needs best. In the first instance, James has got that opportunity.’
Wallabies squad: Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Nick Cummins, Dave Dennis, Saia Faingaa, Israel Folau, Will Genia, Liam Gill, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper, Rob Horne, James Horwill, Digby Ioane, Sekope Kepu, Christian Lealiifano, Stephen Moore, Ben Mowen, Jame O’Connor, Wycliff Palu, Benn Robinson, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Sitaleki Timani, Joe Tomane.