Wallabies position in focus: Are wingers clambering for one spot?

The countdown to the Wallabies' much-anticipated series with England is on, with the opening Test, at Perth's Optus Stadium, now under two months away.

In a boost for Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, his Australian cohort is at last enjoying some success against New Zealand teams in Super Rugby Pacific, with three victories through eight head-to-head trans-Tasman contests.

That is certainly not a figure to get carried away with, nor one Rennie will want his players to wrest their laurels on, but is indeed a huge shot of confidence for a group that has been short on success in recent years.

And the more players get a taste of what it means to beat New Zealand opposition, the greater Rennie's talent pool will become.

As we inch closer to England's visit, which pits Rennie against England's Australian coach, Eddie Jones, ESPN is going to analyse each positional group, identifying and rating the options the Wallabies coaching staff has at its disposal.

This week, we begin with Australia's wing cohort.

The incumbents: Andrew Kellaway [R], Filipo Daugunu [L].

Marika Koroibete's decision to skip the spring tour following the birth of his third child, opened up the opportunity for the likes of Daugunu, Tom Wright, Jordan Petaia and Izaia Perese to push for selection to join Andrew Kellaway on the wing for the Wallabies, after the Rebels back had established himself as the breakout player of 2021 through the Rugby Championship.

Kellaway, too, was tried at fullback, but slotted back onto the right wing with Kurtley Beale preferred in the No. 15 shirt against England and Wales following the injuries to Tom Banks and Reece Hodge.

In the Wallabies' final Test of 2022, when they were beaten in dramatic fashion by Wales, it was Kellaway on the right wing and Daugunu on the left.

Named in Wallabies April training squad: Jock Campbell, Reece Hodge, Andrew Kellaway, Izaia Perese, Jordan Petaia, Tom Wright

Jock Campbell was the new face that joined Dave Rennie's squad on the Gold Coast in April, the Reds outside back rewarded for his form at the back for Queensland. Just as at home in the No. 15 jersey as he is on the wing, Campbell was shifted to the flanks to accommodate the continued trial of Jordan Petaia at fullback.

But Petaia will this week return from injury on the wing, with Campbell given the nod at fullback. Reds coach Brad Thorn appears happy interchanging the two, giving both men the opportunity to show their versatility.

On the fringes: Suliasi Vunivalu, Andy Muirhead, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Dylan Pietsch

Suliasi Vunivalu has endured an injury-plagued run since his switch from the NRL, his most recent return halting at its first juncture when the Reds defeated the Rebels in Melbourne last month. But, after another two weeks on the sidelines, he will return on the right wing for the Reds' clash with the Highlanders in Brisbane on Friday night.

Vunivalu did spend time at the Wallabies' camp on the Gold Coast last month despite the fact he wasn't named in the squad, reflecting the level of potential and genuine attacking ability Rennie and his assistant see in the former Storm flyer.

Muirhead, meanwhile, was perhaps the unlucky player to miss out on the April camp. The Brumbies winger seldom puts a foot wrong for Dan McKellar in Super Rugby, more often than not making the right decision when the play does come his way.

Given the level of talent in front of them, it's likely going to be too soon for Waratahs flyers Dylan Pietsch and Mark Nawaqanitawase. But there has been a lot to like in the development of the young NSW duo under Darren Coleman this season. A convert from sevens, Pietsch enjoyed his best Super Rugby game against the Crusaders last Saturday, while Nawaqanitawase looks a far more assured player having ironed out many of the deficiencies in his game. Their time will come, but they might have to wait until after next year's World Cup.

The storyline: Koroibete's return.

The updated Overseas Player Selection Policy - aka the Giteau Law - permits Rennie to select three players for the series with England who are not based in Australia. The important thing to remember is that given Kurtley Beale is signed to play for the Waratahs next season, he is not included among the three.

Given his performances in the Wallaby jersey in recent years, it's hard to see how Koroibete won't be named alongside Samu Kerevi and, most likely, Quade Cooper as Rennie's three overseas selections.

Speaking with ESPN recently, former Wallabies fly-half Bernard Foley said Koroibete had been particularly dominant in Japanese rugby.

I think he's showed his worth and what he adds to a team with his work-rate and his ability to finish," Foley told ESPN. "He's behind a pretty solid pack there at Panasonic [Wild Knights], but he's been good."

With Koroibete thought to be a lock on the left wing, it leaves just the No. 14 jersey vacant for the first Test in Perth. And given his outstanding form last year, it's hard to see how Kellaway could be overlooked.

But should Vunivalu at last get a continued run in the No. 14 jersey for the Reds, and remain injury free, he could well be the smoky that joins the Wallabies' outside back contingent.

Predicted selections: Marika Koroibete, Andrew Kellaway; Tom Wright, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia

Given the performances of Kellaway last season, and the undisputed quality of Koroibete, it's hard to see Rennie venturing away from the duo as his starting wingers of the first Test in Perth.

The interesting part will be who scrapes into the squad behind them, with versatility a key factor in a squad that will likely be around 36 in number. Each of Hodge, Petaia and Wright have spent time at fullback this season and although the Melbourne back's form has perhaps not been at its peak, his long-range boot is an invaluable weapon at Test level.

The bolter, of course, is Vunivalu, but his selection relies on his ability to stay on the paddock through the remainder of the Reds' Super Rugby Pacific season. He returns to action against the Highlanders on Friday night, and don't be surprised if he is the target of a cross-kick at some point from fly-half Lawson Creighton.

It was a play Melbourne Storm used with great success, but we are yet to really see Vunivalu fly high out wide in rugby just yet.