Flanker Dave Dennis will become Sydney University Football Club’s 92nd Wallaby when he runs on for a Test against Scotland at Hunter Stadium, Newcastle, on Tuesday night.
Dennis, 26, was named as blind-side flanker in the run-on Australian team to meet Scotland, having earned his spot as a solid contributor in a disappointing NSW Waratahs side in the 2012 Super rugby competition.
SUFC will also be represented in the run-on side by five-eighth Berrick Barnes, while halfback Nick Phipps has been selected on the bench to cover for Will Genia. SUFC number eight Ben McCalman missed selection through injury, while rookie fullback Bernard Foley, the Australian Sevens captain and player of the year in 2011, remains in the Wallabies train-on squad for a three-Test series against Wales during June.
Dennis (Grad. Dip. Commerce) and Foley (B. Economics) are both Sydney University Elite Athlete Program (EAP) scholarship holders, while Barnes, McCalman and Phipps are all former scholarship holders. Barnes was SUFC’s 89th Wallaby, McCalman the 90th and Phipps the 91st.
The road to a Test cap for Dennis, a second-rower-cum-backrower, has been a story of tenacity and perseverance.
He first came to notice while attending Richmond High School when he played three matches for the Australian Schoolboys in 2004 and was invited to join the Waratahs development program.
Having enrolled at the University of Sydney and linked up with SUFC, he graduated to Super Rugby ranks in 2007, making his debut for the Waratahs against the then Robbie Deans-coach Canterbury Crusaders.
While the Tahs lost narrowly, Dennis went on to help Sydney University claim the 2007 Shute Shield for the Sydney rugby premiership. He progressed from there to the Melbourne Rebels in the inaugural Australian Rugby Championship when disaster struck and he suffered the first of two knee injuries that kept him off the playing fields for 18 months.
Two knee reconstructions later, Dennis turned out for the Students in the 2009 Shute Shield and went from strength to strength as the season unfurled. He captained the side before the return of number eight Tim Davidson and as his fitness and confidence grew, his work rate 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 Deans, now the Wallabies coach, who was impressed enough to push for Dennis’s inclusion on the Wallabies Spring tour of Japan and the British Isles. He played second-row for Australia in tour matches against Gloucester and Cardiff Blues.
Dennis also played for Australian Barbarians as a flanker in their 38-14 win over Canada last year and starred as number eight in the Wallabies’ record 60-11 win over the Barbarians at Twickenham last November.
During the past two years he has cemented his place in the Waratahs as a starting flanker, notching up 44 caps.
But he won’t be able to add to those for the next month as the Super Rugby competition takes a break for the in-bound international Test series, starting with tomorrow night’s match against Scotland and followed by Tests against Wales on Saturday, June 9 in Brisbane, Saturday, June 16, in Melbourne and Saturday, June 23, in Sydney.