Veteran earns shock Wallabies recall

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Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt has named his first squad, with veteran Kurtley Beale earning a shock recall. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images for Rugby Australia

New Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt is prepared to make the first major call of his tenure with the national side after conceding he’s open to the idea of granting early releases to NRL-bound players Mark Nawaqanitawase and Carter Gordon after they were both left out of the squad for next month’s home Tests.

Nawaqanitawase will join the Roosters next year while Gordon is off to the Titans, with both men left out of the 38-man squad for matches against Wales and Georgia.

Both men are contracted to Rugby Australia until the end of the year but could be released early after missing out, with rugby-bound Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii picked to make his State of Origin debut earlier this month despite finishing up in rugby league at the end of the season.

It’s not a clear-cut call for the two stars given Nawaqanitawase is still hoping to be picked in the sevens squad for the Olympics.

Mark Nawaqanitawase was left out of the Wallabies squad having signed with the Roosters for next year. Picture: David Gray / AFP
Mark Nawaqanitawase was left out of the Wallabies squad having signed with the Roosters for next year. Picture: David Gray / AFP

“I haven’t been part of a discussion on that yet, and I guess it’s something new, it would be something we’d have to talk about if it came up,” Schmidt said.

“I don’t really want to get in your way. If they want to get on, they’ve chosen a path and they want to get on the pathway.

“Mark is a slightly different situation to Carter, but if there was a case (for an early release) I guess it would be a decision for the rugby committee and they may ask me my opinion.

“But it’d be something I’d throw back to the coaches because that’s how we make our decisions.”

While those two were left out, veteran playmaker Kurtley Beale has earnt a shock recall for the Wallabies after he was named in a new-look squad that includes 13 uncapped players.

Beale, 35, last represented the Wallabies in 2021 but impressed selectors after he made a successful return with the Western Force this year having earlier been found not guilty of sexual assault charges.

Schmidt’s squad was always going to garner interest given there is so much intrigue over how they’ll perform after getting rid of Eddie Jones, with Tests against Wales and Georgia at home next month.

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Kurtley Beale is in the mix to play his first Test in three years. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

“There were some very tight selection calls, as there always are when selecting a national team,” Schmidt said.

“The coaching group has looked hard at on-field performances and had ongoing discussions with Super Rugby coaches.

“We’ve combined the observations we’ve made with some candid discussion and feel that we have some very good players to start working with while also acknowledging that there are some good players who have missed selection.

“We have a short runway into our first Test, so we’re just keen to get to work and make as much progress as we can over the four days we have in Brisbane.”