Wallabies great Drew Mitchell has pleaded with Rugby Australia to keep considering Super Rugby players for Test selection even if they have signed deals to ply their future trade overseas.
Mitchell made his case on the latest edition of Stan Sport’s Rugby Heaven as Wallabies coach Dave Rennie prepares to name his squad to play France on Sunday.
Fellow panelist Morgan Turinui sparked the debate when discussing the case of Reds hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa, who will join French club Montpellier next season.
Paenga-Amosa, 25, missed out on the Wallabies training squad in April but was name dropped by Rennie on Sunday as being in consideration for his recent form.
Hooker is a problem position for the Wallabies and Feleti Kaitu’u, Lachlan Lonergan, Alex Mafi and David Porecki were the four picked to attend the training camp in Sydney.
“I don’t buy into the narrative around players have signed overseas so we shouldn’t pick them,” Mitchell said.
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“This is our best representative team in the country, we should pick whoever is available. And for where we are as a game in this country, and up against the different sports, we need wins. We need to win against this French team that’s coming to visit these shores so pick the best team that’s going to be able to beat this team in the immediate future…
“You can’t just disregard someone because they’ve chosen to go overseas. We do it with coaches, coaches come from overseas and everyone of our coaches in the Wallabies setup have been overseas and come back and been picked for the Wallabies so why can’t we do it with the players. We need to win games so they need to pick the best available.”
Mitchell, Australia’s leading try-scorer in Rugby World Cups, remained positive that the Wallabies could field a strong team this year despite Super Rugby AU teams winning just two of 20 games in the trans-Tasman competition.
“Whilst the results haven’t been fantastic for the Australian teams, I think we can put the nucleus of a really strong team together that’s going to compete against these teams internationally.”
Former Wallabies back Turinui believed Paenga-Amosa was the “favourite” to start at hooker against France although he would personally pick uncapped Force rake Kaitu’u.
“He’s had an excellent season,” Turinui said.
Meanwhile, former Wallabies lock Justin Harrison said uncapped second rowers Darcy Swain and Trevor Hosea fit the profile of what the coaching staff were looking for.
“A physical presence, able to carry the ball, able to recycle the ball and fit into a game plan and learn how to play according to how Dave Rennie wants to play,” Harrison said.
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