Wallabies winners and losers: Moment ‘courageous’ Tom Lynagh wowed Joe, and why coach left out Junkyard Dog

Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt named 38 players to prepare for the July Tests and said he rang 31 others who failed to make the cut ahead of Friday’s announcement – his first squad as Wallabies coach.

Schmidt opted against picking any overseas players, or those who have committed their futures elsewhere, such as NRL converts Mark Nawaqanitawase and Carter Gordon.

Schmidt acknowledged that the squad would face “a lot more pressure” than some of the players might be used to – with 12 uncapped players in the cohort.

“There’s a number of guys in the squad who aren’t pressure tested and we’re pretty keen to learn a bit about them over these next three Test matches,” said Schmidt.

“It’s going to be difficult. You’ve got five new coaches. I’m meeting some of these guys actually on the grass for the first time in Brisbane.

“So we have to build a rhythm very, very quickly. I’ve never been one to make big promises. Only that we’ll be working really hard to try to get as much rhythm as we can by July 6th.”

Who were the winners and losers from Joe Schmidt’s first Wallabies squad?


Schmidt has a long relationship with Les Kiss and made no secret of the fact he got guidance from the Reds coach.

That appears to have paid off for several of them in the selection room – although others haven’t fared as well.

Tom Lynagh was chosen as one of three flyhalves, giving him a chance to follow in the footsteps of famous dad Michael, with Schmidt revealing the moment that won him over – when he was smashed in a tackle by Chiefs Samipeni Finau in round three of Super Rugby.

Tom Lynagh of the Reds reacts after being hit by Samipeni Finau. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

“Right from the start of the season, Tom, he was hitting the ball long. He’s a courageous man. Anyone who gets up is, I wouldn’t say quickly, from Samipeni Finau hitting him, but he got up and continued to play.

“He challenges the line. He’s got good acceleration. He’s young and he’s still got a lot to learn. And we’re going to try to fast track that learning over this next four weeks.”

Lynagh will hopefully benefit from the presence of Kurtley Beale – back in a Wallabies squad for the first time since 2021 when he played his 95th Test.

Josh Nasser, also the son of a Wallaby, Brendan, was named as one of three hookers, benefitting from the departure overseas of Jordan Uelese. Reds teammate Angus Blyth, 26, who finally appears to have put injury woes behind him, is arguably the biggest bolter in Schmidt’s selection and gets a place over capped Darcy Swain.

Josh Flook has been deservedly rewarded for his strong form this season in Super Rugby for the Reds.

The Waratahs had a couple of players who will be pleased they overcame that club’s horrific form to impress Schmidt.

Only a few weeks ago Jake Gordon was trying to prise himself free of his Rugby Australia deal to head overseas. He handled the rejection well and returns to the Wallabies fold alongside Tate McDermott and Nic White – ahead of World Cup Wallaby Issak Fines-Leleiwasa and the Brumbies’ Ryan Lonergan.

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Langi Gleeson has had a dip this season et makes the cut – it’s reasonable to expect he has plenty to prove in camp next week but this is one selection that appears to be made on promise rather than form.

Two unsung Rebels have been called up for their first squads.

Emerging prop Isaac Kailea has pushed his way past Rebels teammate Matt Gibbon while there is an outright bolter in centre David Feliuai.

A late comer to Super Rugby before being given a shot by Nick Stiles, he was was raised in Brisbane and his first senior rugby was with Kafiga Samoa in the 2019 Global Rapid Rugby Showcase.

He then headed to Romania, leading CSM Baia Mare to back-to-back premierships in Romania, returning home to play for Sunnybank in 2021. He was signed by the Rebels last year.

There was also a spot for Darby Lancaster for one of the wing spots.

“He’s really solid, does the simple things well. He’s quick, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s good when the ball’s in the air,” Cam Shepherd said on Stan Sport’s Rugby Heaven recently.

“And he seems to just adapt in situations. Not always easy assignments out on the wing for the Rebels this year and I thought he did brilliantly.”

Darby Lancaster. (Photo by Josh Chadwick/Getty Images)

And Brumbies’ youngster Charlie Cale got his first call up after making himself a mainstay of the Canberra club’s backrow alongside the Wallabies’ best player Rob Valetini.


Schmidt was asked if there was a toughest rejection call he had to make in picking the squad.

“I don’t think I could label one individual exclusion,” he said before settling on Brumbies scrumhalf Ryan Lonergan.

“You go through it positionally and there are tough exclusions. You know, I think Ryan Lonergan. I think it’s a matter of time with a guy like Ryan Lonergan, but the experience of those other guys [McDermott, White and Gordon], particularly with less experience in our tens, it’s about trying to find a balance.”

Another halfback who will feel disappointed is Fines-Leleiwasa who hasn’t kicked on from World Cup selection,

“That’s a tough conversation. But, you know, there was a number of them,” Schmidt said.

“I think Darcy Swain, he’s done a great job calling line-outs and running the line-out for the Brumbies, which is a really strong line-out.”

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Swain is moving to Western Force, and will have rated his chances with Izack Rodda ruling himself out of contention with his move to France – but what we know about Schmidt is he prizes discipline highly and Swain has a chequered past in Wallaby gold.

“I could go positionally and just about work my way right through the whole list,” Schmidt added. “That’s a good thing, though. If the decisions are tough, then hopefully we’ve got a squad that has a little bit of depth to it.”

A fresh outlook could mean the end of the road for several players from the recent past.

Reds winger Suliasi Vunivalu tempted both Dave Rennie and Eddie Jones but neither fell head over heels for the NRL convert. It’s hard to see a way back to Wallaby gold for him.

Lalakai Foketi recovered from an awful training ground incident mid season to regain his Waratahs place. His snub was unexpected.

One non-selection that comes as a surprise is that of Tim Ryan – the much-hyped Junkyard Dog who destroyed defences after arriving in a blaze of glory.

Schmidt has shown restraint in a bid to keep the fast flyer grounded, and made it clear he lost a straight shootout with Lancaster.

“I think anyone was tempted to pick Tim Ryan. And I had a super conversation with him around selection and around his readiness for selection,” said Schmidt.

“I think one of the things you’ve got to be just a little bit wary of is to be tempted by the excitement of a young kid who plays really well. And then the reality of a readiness to play at that level and the sort of players that he’s going to come up against. So within that discussion, you know, Tim has done a great job for the Reds.

“We’ll enjoy tracking him and potentially Tim being involved at some time in the future. But Darby, his speed is very, very good. He is a very good defender post-tackle, puts a lot of pressure on. It’s a great opportunity for him to get in and learn a bit of his craft in a Wallabies environment.”

Seru Uru had a powerful start to the Super Rugby season and his absence as a utility option comes as a surprise.

At the Rebels, Josh Canham was being touted as a likely squad member after impressing in a lost cause. It’s only a week since Paul Cully declared “Lock him in, Joe.”

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