Five key talking points from the first Wallaby squad of 2023

The first Wallabies squad of 2023 has dropped considerably earlier than usual as the preparation for the World Cup begins.The 44-player squad will convene on the Gold Coast for a four-day camp following a gruelling Spring Tour.CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR EARLY BIRD AND HOSPITALITY TICKETS FOR THE HSBC SYDNEY SEVENSThere should be no concern regards any further injury setbacks ahead of Super Rugby, these types of camps are limited in terms of training, more of a chance to plan for the year ahead along with fulfilling the odd commercial obligations.However, the makeup of the extended squad has given fans a fair idea of who is in the reckoning for the World Cup with the first game just over eight months away.With this in mind, breaks down the squad and looks at the key talking points.1.Taking a GambleThis squad is a clear indicator of where Charlie Gamble sits in the national set-up, one of few players ever to be called into a Wallabies squad whilst not actually being able to play for the team at the time of the camp.This will change in April when Gamble becomes eligible, which Dave Rennie has been aware of for a long time such is the stature he holds the former Petersham backrower in.Gamble was the biggest benefactor of Michael Hooper’s injury to start 2022, making it impossible to be left out as the Waratahs went on the charge.His ability to not only get over the ball but cover multiple positions in the back row gives him a major advantage over his competition as he looks to push his case for a call-up.Gamble needs to back up his form to start 2023 to keep on the radar of Rennie and the selectors. If he does so, he will be firmly in contention for a call-up for the Rugby Championship and World Cup2. Suli setbackIf there was any sign of how far Suli Vunivalu has fallen in the pecking order, this is it.Vunivalu went from a prospect fans were desperate to see more of to out of the squad altogether, unable to push his way into the expanded training squad ahead of a crucial Super Rugby season.The rise of Mark Nawaqanitawase has accelerated this, whilst the likes of Jock Campbell and the returning Kurtley Beale provide versatility he can’t compete with.Vunivalu remains a major threat when he is given time and space, however, he’s going to need something special for the Reds to have any chance of rising up the ranks after signing a one-year extension.

3. The true bolterRyan Lonergan is someone who has flown under the radar in the push for a Wallabies call-up, with his selection a sign he remains in the mix in a scrumhalf group still figuring out the pecking order.Lonergan has been a regular at these types of camps although has found himself behind club teammate Nic White, Jake Gordon and Tate McDermott as the trio traded starts in the Spring TourHis Australia A captaincy across the Pacific Nations Cup and the Japan tour shows how highly they rate his leadership whilst he possesses an effective kicking game both from in-play and off the tee.The tenacity/versatility of Gordon (particularly if the Wallabies once again go into a World Cup with only two scrum-halves like 2019) and the explosiveness of McDermott will see Lonergan on the outer heading into 2023, with game-time behind White limited for the Brumbies.He will be looking to emulate what Folau Fakatava has done with the Highlanders, impressing enough as a finisher at club level that it gives Rennie little chance but to earn a shot at a maiden Wallabies cap.4. Pone problemPone Fa’amausili’s absence is another that took many by surprise, not selected amongst several other injured stars in this squadDave Rennie has mentioned in the past he sees Fa’amausili in a similar mould to Tupou, which is why it was a shock to not see the Rebel included given the long layoff facing the 'Tongan Thor'The hulking Rebel is a menace on his day and showed just how damaging he can be when fired up against the Highlanders to finish last year's Super RugbyRennie and selectors will be hoping this exclusion has a similar effect.
5. Setting the sceneIf the breakdown of this squad is anything to go by, the battle of Australian supremacy in Super Rugby Pacific will be a two-horse race in 2023 as the Brumbies and Waratahs combine for 13 selections each.It’s a sharp rise from last year’s England series, with the Waratahs building on their six selections with the likes of breakout stars Langi Gleeson and Mark Nawaqanitawase earning their spots.Even with a host of experienced players heading overseas, the Brumbies remain well-represented, setting up a blockbuster opening-round clash at Allianz Stadium.However, it’s the Queensland Reds that should be watched after this camp, only accounting for seven selections, headlined by Harry Wilson’s return.Expect Brad Thorn to use this as motivation for the likes of Vunivalu, James O’Connor and Liam Wright amongst others hungry to make their case and reminder everyone where they sit.Click Here: St Kilda Saints Guernsey

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