Wallabies name European-based players, Izaia Perese for spring tour

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has confirmed the worst kept secret in Australian rugby, naming Will Skelton, Rory Arnold and Tolu Latu for the team's spring tour of the United Kingdom.

Rennie on Friday unveiled a 37-man squad for the tour, which also includes a stopover in Japan that the European-based trio will not be part of.

The decision to include the three forwards among the touring contingent is another step in the ever loosening Giteau Law guidelines, but which are currently under review by Rugby Australia.

Skelton hasn't played for the Wallabies since 2016 while Arnold and Latu both bid farewell to Super Rugby, and at that point their Test careers, following the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Rennie said the trio would likely be hard-pressed to start against Scotland in the first Test of the UK leg given they would only join the squad on the Sunday before that match. But there was no hiding the coach's delight in his latest Giteau Law recruits.

"We've been speaking to a number of guys for a long time around potentially coming home and their desire to play for the Wallabies again," Rennie explained of his overseas selections. "Obviously the situation with COVID, the desire to leave some guys at home to have a decent offseason and make shifts in their game, has created an opportunity to utilise some of those guys.

"And as you know, I was really disappointed Rory Arnold had committed to leave Australia post [2019] World Cup and obviously he's gained more experience over there [in France] but he still has a strong desire to play for the Wallabies. So I've been in constant contact with him, even while I was in Scotland.

"Will, I've spoken a lot to, I coached against him a fair bit when he was at Saracens and I was at Glasgow, and likewise since then he's headed off to La Rochelle. But [he's] also very keen to play for the Wallabies again.

"And likewise with Tolu, he's obviously been plying his trade in France. So all of these guys, they've had an understanding there could be an opportunity; so it's great for us, it's good experience, it's good for our young group and fantastic to have those guys back in the mix."

Waratahs centre Izaia Perese and Brumbies hooker Connal McInerney are the two Australian-based additions to the squad that contested the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.

Perese was set to be included in the Wallabies squad for the July series against France, but he suffered a shoulder injury in the closing round of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, which has kept him out of action ever since.

The hard-running centre has been training with the Waratahs over the past few months, telling ESPN early in September of his hopes to be fit for the spring tour.

In-form centre Samu Kerevi may yet be available for the Japan Test while Hunter Paisami will also likely come into consideration having lost his spot to another impressive midfielder, Len Ikitau. Perese's Waratahs teammate, Lalakai Foketi, who is also uncapped, has again been included in the squad.

"It's not too bad, so a chance to be available for the Japanese game, certainly post that, definitely available," Rennie said of Kerevi's ankle injury.

"Obviously a question mark around when Samu's back ... technically that [Japan Test] falls outside of Regulation 9, so we're talking with Suntory around that. Obviously Lalakai injured a finger and left us from Perth, so he's been away and hasn't played much footy since that time.

"And then likewise with Izzy Perese, he's had a shoulder reconstruction, he's been back into contact for a couple of weeks and he's ticked every box, but again he hasn't played a lot of footy. So again we've got a lot of work to get into Izzy, and whether he'll be ready in 10 days to play Test footy, that's the question mark.

"And Hunter's a very good player, but I guess like Lukhan [Salakai-Loto] a couple of other guys have really grabbed their opportunities and he gets a chance to remind us what he's capable of."

McInerney, meanwhile, is the latest of a string of hookers Rennie has considered as he seeks to find the right man for the key front-row role. He joins Folau Fainga'a, Feleti Kaitu'u and Latu as the hooker options for the four-Test tour.

"It's fair to say," Rennie responded when asked if he was still searching for who his best hookers were in the long term.

"I rate Lachie Lonergan really highly; he's a bit of lightweight at the moment, he's about 103/104 kilos and we think he's got a real point-of-difference in his game. He throws well [but] needs to really embrace scrummaging and put on some size and some neck strength, and so a decent offseason will allow him to do that.

"Connal's been in our mix before, we like him. He's old school, a very good set-piece and that's going to be important in the UK. So a chance for him to get out in front of us again and show us that he's capable of playing at this level."

There is no place for Reds young guns Harry Wilson and Fraser McReight, nor Brumbies fly-half Noah Lolesio, with the trio deemed to be better served by a full preseason with their Super Rugby clubs.

Wilson wasn't sighted at all through the Bledisloe or Rugby Championship campaign, but Lolesio had started all three Tests against France, so too the All Blacks, before he was replaced by Quade Cooper.

McReight meanwhile is stuck behind Wallabies captain Michael Hooper and doesn't boast the versatility of being able to play across the back-row in the same mould as Pete Samu or Rob Leota.

"Harry hasn't played much Test footy in the sort of last month, and he's desperate to play at this level. And what we're saying is that staying home is going to give him an opportunity to make shifts physically and in his game, which is gonna allow him to excel at this level," Rennie said of Wilson.

"To his credit, he's been really mature around it. He wants to play, he realises coming away with us if he doesn't get that chance to play he's still gonna have to train and do all those things to help the team prepare. And this gives him a plan. We rate him highly and as a young man he really hasn't had an offseason, he didn't get much of one last year.

"So likewise with Noah, he needs to put on some muscle mass and deal with the physical nature of having to defend at 10, he'll work on getting more explosive and acceleration, try and get a bit of distance in his kicking game. And so this is obviously going to give him some time to do that.

"So both good young men who we think have got a big future in the gold jersey, and a chance for them to make some shifts."

The Wallabies' Test against the Brave Blossoms is on Oct. 23, before they then travel north to face Scotland [Nov. 6], England [Nov. 13] and Wales [Nov. 20] in Edinburgh, London and Cardiff respectively.

Australia are currently riding a four-match winning streak after closing out the Rugby Championship with back-to-back victories over both South Africa and Argentina.

WALLABIES SQUAD:

Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Angus Bell, Quade Cooper, Filipo Daugunu, Pone Fa'amausili, Folau Fainga'a, Lalakai Foketi, Jake Gordon, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper, Len Ikitau, Feleti Kaitu'u, Andrew Kellaway, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tolu Latu, Rob Leota, Tate McDermott, Connal McInerney, Sean McMahon, James O'Connor, Hunter Paisami, Izaia Perese, Jordan Petaia, Matt Philip, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Pete Samu, Will Skelton, James Slipper, Darcy Swain, Lachlan Swinton, Taniela Tupou, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Tom Wright