Australia include Christian Lealiifano in 34-man squad for Rugby Championship opener against South Africa

Christian Lealiifano last played for Australia in 2016
Christian Lealiifano last played for Australia in 2016

Australia head coach Michael Cheika has recalled Brumbies fly-half Christian Lealiifano in the 34-man squad for the Rugby Championship opening game against South Africa in Johannesburg.

This will be the first time the 31-year-old has been included in the Wallabies setup since he last featured for them in 2016 and would be keen to add his 19 Test caps in which he scored 124 points.

The squad also contains three debutants including the likes of Isi Naisarani, Liam Wright and Rob Valetini. David Pocock, Adam Coleman, Jordan Petaia and Tatafu Polota-Nau are unavailable due to injuries while James O'Connor, who has been reported to have signed a deal with Reds will be hoping to get the attention of Cheika down the tournament.

Cheika said the form of the players in the Super Rugby season played a pivotal role in selection.

“We tried to look at Super Rugby form, what players can bring and what they’ve done before,” Cheika told Rugby Australia’s official website.

“It’s a bit of a mix and I suppose that comes in with the form of the Super Rugby teams this year and then what we’ve seen from the players that have been in camp this week as well.

“Only 31 are going (to the World Cup) and there’s a few to come back.

“I’m not expecting anything right now, I’m thinking of next week and leading into South Africa.

“I know that’s a bit cliched but one thing I think is going to be big this year is building momentum.

“It’s no secret we’re coming from way back and to come from way back you’ve got to build momentum and belief in yourself on the way, it’s really important.

“(The final World Cup squad) will work itself out, they’ll pick themselves by the way they play and perform and their dynamic inside the team.

“We’ve just got to help them get the good performances under their belt.”

Australia squad for opening game against Springboks:

Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa (Brumbies), Rory Arnold (Brumbies), Jack Dempsey (Waratahs), Folau Fainga’a (Brumbies), Michael Hooper (Waratahs), Luke Jones (Melbourne Rebels), Sekope Kepu (Waratahs), Tolu Latu (Waratahs), Isi Naisarani (Melbourne Rebels), Tom Robertson (Waratahs), Izack Rodda (Reds), Rob Simmons (Waratahs), Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (Reds), Scott Sio (Brumbies), James Slipper (Brumbies), Liam Wright (Reds)

Backs: Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs), Tom Banks (Brumbies), Kurtley Beale (Waratahs), Bernard Foley (Waratahs), Will Genia (Melbourne Rebels), Dane Haylett-Petty (Melbourne Rebels), Reece Hodge (Melbourne Rebels), Samu Kerevi (Reds), Marika Koroibete (Melbourne Rebels), Tevita Kuridrani (Brumbies), Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies), Jack Maddocks (Melbourne Rebels), Joe Powell (Brumbies), Matt To’omua (Melbourne Rebels), Nic White (Exeter Chiefs)


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