MELBOURNE (Reuters) – ACT Brumbies captain and cancer survivor Christian Lealiifano has been recalled to the Wallabies squad for the first time in three years while flyhalf Quade Cooper was left out for the first Rugby Championship test against South Africa.
Flyhalf Lealiifano’s recall follows a strong season with the Canberra-based Super Rugby team and caps a comeback from his battle with leukaemia after his 2016 diagnosis.
Lealiifano was named in Michael Cheika’s 34-man squad which includes three potential debutants in Melbourne Rebels number eight Isi Naisarani and rookie backrowers Liam Wright and Rob Valetini.
Scrumhalf Nic White and utility back Matt Toomua have also been included after the former Wallabies returned from stints in Europe to try to earn selection for the World Cup in Japan starting in September.
Former Wallabies flyhalf Cooper was tipped to challenge incumbent Bernard Foley’s hold on the number 10 shirt but appears to have paid the price for some patchy form for the Rebels as they lost momentum late in the season and missed out on the Super Rugby playoffs.
James O’Connor, another former Wallabies flyhalf who was expected to be announced as a new signing for the Queensland Reds this week, was not named in the squad.
Australia play the Springboks in Johannesburg on July 20, part of an abridged Rugby Championship due to the World Cup.
Forwards – Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Jack Dempsey, Folau Fainga’a, Michael Hooper (capt), Luke Jones, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Isi Naisarani, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese, Rob Valetini, Liam Wright
Backs – Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge,
Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Jack Maddocks, Joe Powell, Matt Toomua, Nic White
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)