Sydney University’s grand final win over Randwick on Sunday has provided more rewards than the Shute Shield, with second-rowers Dave Dennis and Ben McCalman being named in a 43-man training squad for the Wallabies’ Spring tour.
Sydney University team-mates Phil Waugh, Luke Burgess and Dean Mumm are also in the squad that will be whittled down to 35 for the Spring tour of Japan and the UK.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, who was at the grand final, would have noted the solid contributions of Dennis, McCalman and Waugh in the 24-19 win over Randwick, along with cameo contributions from Mumm and Burgess who entered the fray late in the match.
After missing 18 months of football during two knee reconstructions, Dennis has been rewarded for his dedication and a form spiral throughout the season, culminating with a sterling performance in the grand final.
While Dennis improved with match fitness, McCalman came back from the Under 20 World Cup hardened but with an ankle injury. Once recovered he soon regained form and has maintained a high standard throughout the 2009 season.
The grand final was also a useful vehicle for Waugh to remind Deans of his worth on the flank, and he left no stone unturned with a non-stop effort in defence and at the breakdown.
Mumm is a certainty for the tour and Burgess will have the chance to display his wares again at a series of in-house trials Deans will hold before the Grand Slam squad is chosen.
Deans has made no attempt to hide his disdain for the lack of desperation in the Wallabies’ final Tri-Nations loss to the All Blacks, and he will throw open the door for any players showing they have fire in the belly in the first week of camp.
“There will be elements of competition. It will be overseen as a referee. It will be essentially the same thing [as a game] but we just won’t be keeping score for the public. We will be keeping score privately,” Deans said.
“They [will] get the opportunity to present themselves and impress to an extent where they get on the flight.”
The 45-man train-on squad is: James O’Connor (Western Force), Lachie Turner (NSW Waratahs), Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs), Drew Mitchell (Western Force), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds), Nick Cummins (Western Force), Peter Hynes (Queensland Reds), Ryan Cross (Western Force), Stirling Mortlock (Brumbies), Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs), Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies), Matt Giteau (Western Force), Quade Cooper (Queensland Reds), Berrick Barnes (Queensland Reds), Josh Valentine (Western Force), Will Genia (Queensland Reds), Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs), Richard Kingi (Queensland Reds), Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs), George Smith (Brumbies), David Pocock (Western Force), Phil Waugh (NSW Waratahs), Stephen Hoiles (Brumbies), Matt Hodgson (Western Force), Rocky Elsom (Brumbies), Dean Mumm (NSW Waratahs), Richard Brown (Western Force), Mitchell Chapman (Brumbies), Ben McCalman (Sydney University, unsigned), Mark Chisholm (Brumbies), James Horwill (Queensland Reds), Nathan Sharpe (Western Force), Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs), Al Baxter (NSW Waratahs), Matt Dunning (NSW Waratahs), Pekahou Cowan (Western Force), Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs), Salesi Ma’afu (Brumbies), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs), Damien Fitzpatrick (NSW Waratahs), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Tatafu Polota-Nau (NSW Waratahs).