Wallabies shock: ‘I can’t select him’
WALLABIES coach Michael Cheika has been blocked from picking Pete Samu for the upcoming three-Test series against Ireland, but says there is a spot waiting for him if the green light comes from New Zealand Rugby.
There are five uncapped players in Cheika's 33-man squad but Samu - who penned a two-year deal with the Brumbies this week to make him instantly eligible for selection - was not one of them.
Rugby Australia had submitted an official request to New Zealand Rugby for the release of the Crusaders forward but approval was yet to come through on Wednesday night.
"I have been told at this point I can't select him. But there is a spot for him there," Cheika said.
"At this point, it is in other's hands.
"I am not really involved in that part of it but I am hoping that there will be some more clarity about that (on Thursday)."
While there is still hope Melbourne-born Samu will be cleared in time to take on Ireland, it would be entirely at New Zealand Rugby's discretion.
The 26-year-old is also eligible for the All Blacks through residency.
While World Rugby's regulation nine forces the release of players for Test duty in June, there is a sub-clause that allows them to deny such requests when the player holds dual eligibility.
If Samu isn't made available, Cheika said newcomer Caleb Timu and Lukhan Tui were possible contenders to play at No.6 for the series opener in Brisbane on June 9.
Ned Hanigan, who played in that position for most of last year, has been selected but has a knee injury that will keep him sidelined until at least the second match in Melbourne.
A return to his "standard floating role" has been flagged for David Pocock, who is back in the Test mix after his year-long sabbatical and will resume his undersized back-row partnership with skipper Michael Hooper.
The other rookies in the squad are hookers Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Folau Fainga'a, and outside backs Tom Banks and Jack Maddocks.
Paenga-Amosa and Fainga'a will fight it out with two-cap rake Jordan Uelese for the No.2 jersey, which has been made vacant by Stephen Moore's retirement and Cheika's decision to rest Tatafu Polota-Nau.
"It's going to be pretty exciting to see the two new lads and one who's only got a couple of games under his belt going at it," Cheika said.
Maddocks was taken on last year's spring tour as a development player but has been rewarded with a full-squad opportunity following his terrific eight-try season with the Melbourne Rebels.
"He's a real talent. Melbourne have done a great job with him and we want to build on that in the series," Cheika said.
WALLABIES SQUAD FOR IRELAND SERIES
Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Folau Fainga'a, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (capt), Sekope Kepu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, David Pocock, Tom Robertson, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Izack Rodda, Caleb Timu, Lukhan Tui, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese.
Backs: Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Jack Maddocks, Sefanaia Naivalu, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell, Curtis Rona.