SYDNEY (Reuters) - Michael Cheika dropped a string of test regulars and named eight uncapped players in his 34-man Wallabies squad for June internationals against Fiji, Italy and Scotland on Tuesday.
Flanker Scott Fardy, centre Rob Horne and locks Rob Simmons, Dean Mumm and Kane Douglas were all left out of the squad despite playing regularly for Australia in recent years.
In came the fresh faces of lock Lukhan Tui, flankers Jack Dempsey, Ned Hanigan and Richard Hardwick with uncapped scrumhalf Joe Powell and former rugby league backs Eto Nabuli Marika Koroibete and Karmichael Hunt earning second call-ups.
“There’s a few of the newer generation we’ve brought in to look at for the longer term, but we’ve also got an eye on form,” Cheika told reporters.
“(But) we’re not going to be giving test caps away ... so there’s a bit of form and a bit of a view to getting some guys in and seeing them at this level.”
The versatile Horne will leave for club rugby in England at the end of the season, blindside Fardy has signed up to play in Ireland for Leinster and Mumm will hang up his boots at the end of the year.
Cheika, though, said he was not signalling the end of their test careers.
“Those guys are not out of the picture, if we see you in the starting team - the 23 - you’re in, but if not, we’ll do some sort of development thing,” he added.
The same was true of 71-cap Simmons and Douglas, Cheika said, although he would like to see more aggression from the former and a return to form was necessary for the latter.
With Henry Speight, Sefa Naivalu, Nabuli and Koroibete all in the squad, there is a good chance Australia will line up against Fiji on June 10 with two wingers born in the islands.
Loosehead prop Scott Sio would not be available for that match because of a knee injury but could be fit to play Scotland on June 17, Cheika said.
There was a return after a two-year absence for number eight Scott Higginbotham, while Will Genia was the only overseas-based player in the squad with Cheika hopeful the scrumhalf will be playing his club rugby in Australia again soon.
Higginbotham is notoriously prone to giving away penalties but also brings the physical presence that former number eight Cheika craves in his forwards.
“I still think he can still improve, Higgers, I think he’s got heaps more in him, as an old back rower,” Cheika said.
“He has the ability to change a game.”
Cheika had no truck with the idea that the miserable season for Australia’s Super Rugby teams was making his selection difficult.
“Mate, this is Australian rugby, these are our players and they are capable of doing anything,” he said.
Forwards - Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Sam Carter, Jack Dempsey, Ned Hanigan, Richard Hardwick, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Stephen Moore (captain), Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Scott Sio, Toby Smith, Lopeti Timani, Lukhan TuiBacks - Quade Cooper, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Kyle Godwin, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Karmichael Hunt, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Eto Nabuli, Sefa Naivalu, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell, Henry Speight
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Peter Rutherford