Reds lock Tui the bolter in Wallabies squad
REDS bolter Lukhan Tui is the shocked young lock in the Wallabies overhaul which has dumped Rob Simmons, who has been told to get angry if he wants to make a comeback.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika admitted last night that Tui, 20, wasn't even even in his thinking six weeks ago but a rousing show of potential has won him inclusion in the 34-man squad announced last night.
Only yesterday morning Tui was saying "it's still surreal to be starting in Super Rugby.” The kid who playing rugby league in western Sydney until he was 17 was in shock when his new status was relayed in Apia last night.
No.8 Scott Higginbotham is the other big Queensland selection winner who has shaken up his case from outsider to potential starter against Fiji in Melbourne on June 10.
Seven Reds were included as Cheika lopped the experience of 249 Tests from his squad for June's three Tests because of form, development reasons, shrewd hunches, three stalwarts signing for overseas clubs and Dean Mumm's end-of-season retirement.
The 119kg Tui will start only his 13th Super Rugby match against the Blues in Samoa on Friday night yet has leapfrogged seasoned Reds squadmates Simmons (71 Tests) and Kane Douglas (31 Tests) for a spot.
Cheika delivered the blunt message that the 2015 World Cup duo were omitted because of patchy form while also finding compelling reasons to pick Generation Next options ahead of Leinster-bound Scott Fardy (39 Tests), Northampton signing Rob Horne (33 Tests), bulky Saracens buy Will Skelton (18 Tests) and Mumm.
"That there were guys leaving Australian rugby definitely came into consideration,” Cheika said.
"Players like Fardy and Horne have given great service over many years and if I thought they'd be picked in the starting side things might have been different but this is now an opportunity to develop more of the new generation.”
Tui's three storming first half runs against the NSW Waratahs and two tries over the past six weeks when finishing off backline breaks were persuasive.
"He's raw but I like the impact he makes, the way he likes to be in the battle, popping up for tries and not minding the rough stuff,” Cheika said.
"I've a lot of time for Simmo and he's one of the best locks around when he gets angry but he's been inconsistent.
"There's no ruling of anyone out for later in the season because I know these experienced guys want to play as many Tests as they can.”
Cheika's zeal for Karmichael Hunt's selection suggested the code collector is in sight of a Test debut against Fiji as a utility back or fullback.
"I couldn't have left him out with the attitude he plays with and the way he's performed so well at fullback,” Cheika said.
"He's had to go through a fair bit to get to this point and I'm sure he'd take a utility role but he's been picked as a fullback (along with Israel Folau).”
Uncapped young trio Richard Hardwick, Ned Hanigan and Jack Dempsey make up half the backrow fleet where the shake-up is greatest with Fardy and Mumm omitted and Sean McMahon injured.
Livewire halfback Will Genia is the only overseas-based asset included and Cheika lit the possibility of him playing Super Rugby again next year by saying "we've got to jump through a few hoops and we'll see how it goes.”
Stephen Moore (c), Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Sekope Kepu, Tom Robertson, Scott Sio, Toby Smith, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Sam Carter, Lukhan Tui*, Richard Hardwick*, Michael Hooper, Jack Dempsey*, Ned Hanigan*, Lopeti Timani, Scott Higginbotham.
Will Genia, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell*, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley, Kyle Godwin, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani, Dane Haylett-Petty, Marika Koroibete*, Eto Nabuli*, Sefa Naivalu, Henry Speight, Karmichael Hunt*, Israel Folau.
v Fiji in Melbourne June 10, 3pm
v Scotland in Sydney, June 17, 3pm
v Italy in Brisbane, June 24, 3pm