Skelton, Arnold, Latu in Wallabies return

Murray WenzelAAP
Big Will Skelton has been called up to the Wallabies squad after last playing for Australia in 2016.
Camera IconBig Will Skelton has been called up to the Wallabies squad after last playing for Australia in 2016. Credit: AAP

Rugby Australia's selection policy shake-up has hit top gear with confirmation French-based trio Will Skelton, Rory Arnold and Tolu Latu will join the squad for next month's Spring Tour.

They were among six overseas-based players in Dave Rennie's 37-man squad named on Friday, the coach taking full advantage of exemptions to the so-called Giteau Law brought on by COVID-19.

They will link up with the side in the United Kingdom ahead of Tests against Scotland, England and Wales, after a Test against Japan in Oita on October 23.

As reported by AAP on Sunday, emerging talents Noah Lolesio, Harry Wilson and Fraser McReight have been left out of the squad.

With limited match-day opportunities available for the trio, a view was taken a full pre-season with their Super Rugby clubs - and some rare downtime after two years of continuous rugby - would be of more benefit.

Joining Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon, the French-based trio are the latest to benefit from the loosening of eligibility rules which previously only allowed overseas-based players with 60 caps or seven years of playing service in Australian rugby to be called up.

That rule was established ahead of the 2015 World Cup, enabling both Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell to return to the fray.

Before that there was no wriggle room at all, but COVID-19's logistical constraints and a consideration for players' mental health have allowed for some exemptions that Rennie has taken full advantage of.

"That's not necessarily the plan going forward and there will be discussions we have after the Spring Tour," Rennie said of RA's eligibility rules, adding he'd been in constant contact with Arnold for the last two years.

"There's nothing based in concrete at this stage ... the preference is still to pick from here, it's important we promote from within.

"But some of these guys coming in, getting a taste of that environment and culture encourages them to come back and play here (once their overseas contracts expire).

"We're trying to bring as many home as we can."

Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos confirmed eligibility laws would continue to be refined following the tour, "however with a very clear view that the exceptions made this year were just that - exceptions".

Australia had dropped to a career-low seventh in the world rankings this year after a steady stream of talent left Super Rugby for lucrative deals in Europe, Japan and even the United States.

A tweak to allow a limited number of exceptions to the rule saw game-breaking centre Kerevi return and make an immediate impact, proving an ideal foil to fellow comeback kid Quade Cooper as they jumped back to No.3 in the world.

Back-rower and fellow Japan-based talent McMahon has played just one Test off the bench since his return but created intense competition for spots and a noticeable internal buzz as the side strung together four-straight Rugby Championship wins for the first time.

Now they'll add second-rowers Arnold and Skelton - the pair playing their last Tests in 2019 and 2016 respectively - as well as 2019 World Cup hooker Tolu Latu in an unprecedented foreign forward pack boost.

Skelton and Arnold have been among the best second-rowers in European clubland, while Rennie confirmed Latu's return meant he's still searching for his ideal No.2.

Fit-again winger Filipo Daugunu (broken arm) and midfielder Izaia Perese (shoulder) will travel with the squad, Perese one of four uncapped players including Lalakai Foketi, Connal McInerney and Pone Fa'amausili.

Suliasi Vunivalu will stay in Brisbane with the Queensland Reds after repeated hamstring injuries spoilt the rugby league convert's debut season.

Hunter Paisami is in the mix again after he was unable to retain a spot in the 23 after leaving the squad for the birth of his first child, however Lukhan Salakaia-Loto has fallen down the pecking order and missed the squad after his Rugby Championship ended prematurely for the same reason.

WALLABIES SPRING TOUR SQUAD

Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Angus Bell, Quade Cooper, Filipo Daugunu, Pone Fa'amausili, Folau Fainga'a, Lalakai Foketi, Jake Gordon, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper (capt), Len Ikitau, Feleti Kaitu'u, Andrew Kellaway, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tolu Latu, Rob Leota, Tate McDermott, Connal McInerney, Sean McMahon, James O'Connor, Hunter Paisami, Izaia Perese, Jordan Petaia, Matt Philip, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Pete Samu, Will Skelton, James Slipper, Darcy Swain, Lachlan Swinton, Taniela Tupou, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Tom Wright.

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