Dave Dennis became Sydney University Football Club’s 105th Australian rugby union representative when he was named in the 35-man Wallabies squad for the 2009 Spring Tour of Japan and the British Isles.
He will join Sydney University team-mates Dean Mumm and Luke Burgess on the Grand Slam tour that starts in Japan with a Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks in Tokyo on October 31.
The tourists will then venture to the British Isles for Tests against England at Twickenham, London on November 7, Ireland at Croke Park, Dublin on November 15, Scotland at Murrayfield, Edinburgh on November 21, and Wales at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on November 28.
Should Burgess and Dennis gain Test selection on the tour they will become Sydney University Football Club’s 87th and 88th Wallabies.
The selection of Dennis, a flanker-cum-second-rower, is a triumph of tenacity and perseverance. After making his Super 14 debut for the NSW Waratahs in 2007 and playing in the premiership-winning Sydney University First XV, he suffered the first of two knee injuries kept him off the playing fields for 18 months.
Two knee reconstructions later, he turned out for the Students in the 2009 Shute Shield and went from strength to strength as the season unfurled. Dennis, 23, captained the side before the return of number eight Tim Davidson and as his fitness and confidence grew, his workrate and performances brought him back to the levels he displayed as an Australian Schoolboy five years earlier.
He saved probably his best performance of the season for the 2009 Shute Shield grand final, which Sydney University won 24-19 over Randwick. The match was attended by Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, who must have been impressed enough to push for Dennis’s selection on the Spring Tour.
He is one of seven uncapped players in the touring squad, to be captained by Rocky Elsom, who replaces Sterling Mortlock at the helm.
Two notable omissions from the squad are veteran prop Al Baxter and flanker, Phil Waugh, another stand-out player for Sydney University in the grand final.
“The nature of the playing schedules is such that we get few windows of opportunity outside of Tests in which to introduce players,” Deans said.
“This tour provides us with a development opportunity, through our two mid-week games. That is why we have opted to introduce some younger players, as opposed to taking along players whose capabilities we are already aware of. Clearly players who fall into that category are the likes of Baxter and possibly Waugh.”
The Wallabies squad includes:
Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Kurtley Beale, Richard Brown, Luke Burgess, Mitchell Chapman, Mark Chisholm, Quade Cooper, Pekahou Cowan, Ryan Cross, Dave Dennis, Matt Dunning, Rocky Elsom, Will Genia, Matt Giteau, Matt Hodgson, Rob Horne, James Horwill, Peter Hynes, Digby Ioane, Sekope Kepu, Richard Kingi, Salesi Ma’afu, Drew Mitchell, Stephen Moore, Stirling Mortlock, Dean Mumm, James O’Connor, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, George Smith and Lachie Turner.