Dave Rennie will be relieved when he wakes up on Sunday morning.
As the Reds and Waratahs bowed out of the competition before dinner was put into the oven on Saturday night, the Brumbies came from behind to defeat the Hurricanes to set up a rendezvous with the Beauden Barrett-led Blues in Auckland next weekend.
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Not only did their brave 35-25 win over the Hurricanes see them progress to the final four, it means some of Rennie’s top men will get another week of action into their system before Eddie Jones ’England arrive Down Under later this month .
For someone like Rob Valetini, who missed last month, Saturday’s semi-final at Eden Park will allow one of Australia’s best to recover from injury and get a few miles on his legs.
For others like playmaker Noah Lolesio, the match will give insights into the 22-year-old’s development and whether he should get a jersey in front of James O’Connor.
Ditto Caderyn Neville or the budding Nick Frost, who is emerging as the most athletically talented lock the country has seen this century.
On the other hand, for those like Waratahs forward Jed Holloway and Red back rower Harry Wilson, their departures mean they won’t have a chance to press their claims ahead of the opening of the Wallabies against England in Perth on July 2nd.
Rennie is expected to name a squad no bigger than 36 on Sunday for the three-Test series.
For the first time in years, he has difficult choices to make with a deep building with each passing year.
He also has the luxury but added difficulty of deciding whether it is best to pick his absolute best squad or leave one or two marginal players for an Australia A pick.
For example, Suliasi Vunivalu is a player of immense national interest but if he doesn’t have to line up against England will he continue to re-establish himself with the game after a long absence that has been hampered by his lengthy injuries?
This is how the squad is formed.
Lovers (3): Dave Porecki, Folau Fainga’a, Lachlan Lonergan
The Wallabies management has high hopes for Billy Pollard, but Brumbies’ girlfriend is just beginning her career and Rennie – and his bosses – want to win against England. RA doesn’t want to be embarrassed by Jones again. That’s why Alex Mafi, another who has many of the qualities Rennie likes, is likely to return for Australia A because the Red Rake has been injured for months. Porecki is favored to start, while Fainga’a’s experience is likely to see him edge Lonergan.
Requirements (5): James Slipper, Angus Bell, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Taniela Tupou
The front row is an area of strength for the Wallabies. In Bell and Tupou they have two of the best young theater props in the world. Alaalatoa and Slipper will also appear heavy. Rennie always said he would reward form and on that basis Sio should be included. Rebel enforcer Pone Fa’amausili has some destructive qualities about him but he would benefit from more time in the Australia A program.
Locks (5): Izack Rodda, Darcy Swain, Matt Philip, Nick Frost, Jed Holloway
With Rory Arnold and Will Skelton likely removed from the July international window, the likes of Holloway and Philip have a chance to make their claims ahead of next year’s World Cup. Rodda and Swain are likely to start, while Frost was convinced to stay off RA after signing with Robbie Deans’ side in Japan. Neville could still perform in front of his teammate and his muscle and experience are highly respected.
Back row (6): Rob Valetini, Rob Leota, Michael Hooper, Fraser McReight, Pete Samu, Harry Wilson
Lachie Swinton’s prolonged injury means the back row of the Wallabies is clearer. Rennie will be thrilled by Leota’s amazing return from injury and he will likely form a combination along with Hooper and Valetini.
Halfbacks (3): Nic White, Tate McDermott, Jake Gordon
Rennie believes the halfback position is the most competitive in Australian rugby. He is a big fan of Ryan Lonergan, but McDermott and Gordon are likely to compete for the bench behind White, whose kick game will feature in a series expected to be won and lost on the air.
Players (3): Quade Cooper, James O’Connor, Noah Lolesio
While Ben Donaldson was included in the April training camp, the names mentioned are the easiest to choose from in the squad. The question will be whether he thinks Cooper, who led his Japanese side out of the League Two division, will be up with the pace from the start. It would be enough to make the leap to face England.
Centers (4): Samu Kerevi, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Izaia Perese
Lalakai Foketi continues to evolve for the Waratahs, but it is not yet known whether Rennie will carry a fifth center. Kerevi and Ikitau, who should have rightly taken their place regardless of their red card on Saturday, are likely to start in midfield.
Outer backs (7): Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Jordan Petaia, Marika Koroibete, Reece Hodge, Suliasi Vunivalu, Tom Wright
Kurtley Beale may be the incumbent and return to the Waratahs in 2023, but he probably won’t appear in the June series after battling injuries in recent months. That doesn’t mean he won’t play a role later in the year. If Rennie opted for six outside backs and a squad of 35, Wright could end up in a battle with Hodge for the final position in the squad and although his form was strong, versatility could prevail.